On February 28, Major Michael Mori, David Hicks's US military lawyer, addressed a packed Founders Hall at the University of Ballarat. The mixed crowd of at least 600 learned a whole lot more about how Hicks is the Australian government's sacrificial lamb in the "war on terror".
Using a very educational power-point presentation, Mori explained that the military commission established to try terror suspects was actually constructed to ensure the conviction of people who have already been incarcerated.
We learned that US citizens can't be touched by these military commissions; only "alien terror suspects" get the full treatment. US citizens with access to US law on US soil would get their day in court with legal representation under the usual laws of evidence and assumption of innocence until proven guilty. Mori said he is appalled by the hypocrisy and double standards of the situation.
Now that Hicks has been charged, Mori must try to defend him in a process in which the military prosecutors can submit "evidence" such as hearsay (unfounded gossip, half-remembered conversations, rumour and speculation) and "intelligence" gathered under torture and untaped interrogations. Mori explained that he can't get access to that "evidence", yet he must try to prove that it is unreliable!
The job for us in Australia was made crystal clear when Mori explained that Hicks could be home "the day after the Australian government asks for it".
Leslie Richmond reports that more than 200 people jammed into a lecture theatre at Adelaide University on February 24 to hear Mori describe the "new" trial arrangements for Hicks as akin to "letting the batsman decide on an LBW decision". Scores of people were turned away from the meeting due to lack of space.
Mori received two standing ovations at the meeting, indicating both people's anger at the Australian government's abandonment of Hicks and their appreciation of Mori's outspoken condemnation of the abuse Hicks is suffering.
Other speakers at the meeting included Ahmed Aziz Rafiq, a former US prisoner who was eventually released because no charges against him could be maintained, and Chris Keating from the Adelaide Catholic Justice and Peace Commission. ALP Senator Linda Kirk, while calling for a fair trial for Hicks, kept referring to his "crimes".
In Melbourne, 1500 people turned out to hear Mori speak at a public forum on March 1 (see article on page 3).