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Guantánamo attorney protests 'new crime'
Miami Herald
Associated Press
February 5, 2007

CANBERRA, Australia - The lawyer for the lone Australian held at Guantánamo Bay claimed today that the detainee could face charges under new U.S. legislation that retroactively outlawed his alleged role as a Taliban fighter in 2001.

A senior U.S. military prosecutor dismissed the claim, saying the proposed charges were for crimes long recognized by the U.S. government.

The latest charges are the military's second attempt to try Australian David Hick, 31, and two other high-profile prisoners at the U.S. detention center in Cuba.

Hicks is a former kangaroo skinner who converted to Islam and was captured in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance during the U.S.-led invasion in December 2001. He is accused of fighting for the Taliban and was originally charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit war crimes and aiding the enemy.

The Supreme Court last year halted the military tribunals for Guantánamo detainees, saying that their rules violated U.S. and international laws. Congress then passed a new law authorizing military commissions, and the military then drafted a new set of rules for the trials.

The U.S. military last week drafted new charges -- including murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism -- against Hicks, Canadian Omar Khadr and Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen.

The charges must still be approved by the U.S. Defense Department officials supervising the tribunals.

Hicks' Pentagon-appointed lawyer, Marine Maj. Michael Mori, said he had never heard of a charge of providing material support for terrorism.

"It seems to me that they're creating new crimes after the fact," Mori told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio today.

The new U.S. legislation is being "applied retroactively to David," he said.

Australia's opposition Labor Party has echoed that concern.

Air Force. Col Morris Davis, the lead U.S. prosecutor in the revised military commission system, dismissed Mori's claim as "a load of rubbish." He said Congress had recognized the crime more than a decade ago.

"It's not a new offense. The difference here is the form in which that offense can be prosecuted," Davis said. "But this is not a new crime."

Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch U.S. ally, has said he is satisfied with the U.S. military commissions system.

Original Text