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Australian lawyers forced to give up their rights
The Sydney Morning Herald
Fenella Souter
September 23, 2006

LAWYERS for David Hicks were made to sign a draconian secrecy agreement that gagged them from speaking about evidence in their client's case and allowed for their extradition to the United States if they breached its terms.

The Adelaide lawyer David McLeod said he and Michael Griffin, of Sydney, had to sign the agreement and pass security clearances before they were allowed to represent Hicks as foreign attorney consultants.

Both are Australian Defence Force Reserve lawyers, one a group captain, the other a colonel, working in a civilian capacity.

One clause in the lengthy document requires the lawyers to "voluntarily, knowingly and willingly" consent to the Australian Government extraditing them to the US for prosecution, if it appears they have violated any US military commission regulations governing classified or protected information.

The lawyers also had to consent to the Australian Government passing to the US any relevant information or evidence, no matter how obtained, to be used in a case against them.

In June the US Supreme Court ruled the military commissions unconstitutional. Asked if this meant the confidentiality document was now invalid, based as it was on a military commission order, Mr McLeod told the Herald: "We are taking the view it's best to continue to comply with it."

A spokesman for the federal Attorney-General's office, Michael Pelly, said the Government regarded the conditions as still binding, even though a new commission is yet to be established.

Hicks's previous Australian lawyer, Stephen Kenny, was required to sign a similar document in 2003, but insisted that the extradition clause be struck out. That change was accepted.

"I was told about it when I first arrived [in the US to represent Hicks] and found myself in front of some general from the Pentagon," Mr Kenny said. "I told him, 'I'm not giving up my rights, no matter what you think. I'm an Australian citizen and you can't ask me to do that.' They're bullies."

The other two lawyers signed, but in an interview with Good Weekend, Mr McLeod expressed surprise that his government would be party to such an agreement.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "It goes on for pages. It was very intimidating but the problem was, if you didn't agree to sign it, you weren't going to get access to David Hicks."

As reported today in Good Weekend, the lawyer also confirmed the claim of Moazzam Begg, a British citizen released from Guantanamo Bay, that Hicks was no longer a practising Muslim.

"I can tell you he no longer had an interest in Islam when I first met him, in June last year," Mr McLeod said, "and that had been the case for some time."

Original Text