Defence concern for 'Aussie Taliban'

US military lawyers assigned to represent Australian Guantanamo suspect David Hicks are concerned they cannot offer a proper defence for a client who has been detained by US forces for two years.

    Rights groups campaign against detainees' plight

    His Australian attorney, Stephen Kenny said he had met the military attorneys assigned to Hicks' case this week in Washington and would be travelling on Thursday to the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to meet his client for the first time.
    Hicks, 28, has been held without charge by the US military at Guantanamo Bay since he was captured in late 2001 fighting with the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
    Hicks has been slated to face a military tribunal and last week became the first of the 600 foreign suspects held at Guantanamo to be given a military lawyer, prompting speculation he would soon be tried.
    Kenny told Australian national radio from Washington that US military lawyers had expressed concerns to him about the defence that could be provided to Hicks after having been detained for so long without access to the outside world.

    "That has been one of the issues - looking at how we can provide a defence for someone who has been essentially locked in a cage for two years, the last six months in solitary confinement," Kenny told ABC radio.
    "That's going to be extremely difficult when you have a prosecuting authority that's had at least two years headstart on you, that is a major issue," he said.

    "I think the defence lawyers are quite concerned about it and I believe they are concerned to make sure they do the best they can."

    Plea bargain

    The Guantanamo detainees are to
    face a military tribunal

    Kenny said he planned to spend five days at Guantanamo and would be accompanied by the US military lawyer assigned to Hicks, Marine Corps Major Michael Mori.

    The Australian attorney said his first priority would be to see if Hicks wants to negotiate a plea bargain that would get him home as soon as possible.

    "I don't know whether or not he has agreed to any plea bargain at all," he said.
    "It will be up to David to make up his mind after he has been duly advised what the law relating to any potential charge that may be laid against him will be," Kenny said.

    "But it is usual in these cases, particularly in America, to discuss those matters and there has been some indication that that is one of the matters and one of the issues we will be discussing."

    Kenny said he planned to inform Hicks of the actions that had been taken on his behalf so far and receive instructions from him.  



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