Tue, Mar 06, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Guantanamo defense lawyer threatened with charges of `contemptuous words'

AP , SYDNEY

The Pentagon-appointed lawyer for Australia's sole inmate at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said yesterday a chief US prosecutor threatened him with charges that could slow his client's case from going to trial.

Marine Corps Major Michael Mori said he was warned last week by the US military's chief prosecutor, Colonel Morris Davis, that he could be charged under Article 88 of the US Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The article prohibits officers from using "contemptuous words" against the US president, vice president, secretary of defense and other senior officials.

An outspoken critic of Washington's policy of trying Guantanamo detainees before military tribunals, Mori has made a number of speaking tours to Australia to drum up public support for his client, David Hicks.

In an interview with a US-based reporter from the Australian newspaper published on Saturday, Davis accused Mori of inserting himself into Australian politics and said he could be prosecuted for some of his comments.

But Davis, a US Air Force prosecutor, conceded it was up to the Marine Corps to decide whether to lay charges against Mori.

"Certainly in the US it would not be tolerated having a US Marine in uniform actively inserting himself into the political process," he said. "It is very disappointing to see that happening in Australia and if that was any of my prosecutors, they would be held accountable."

Mori said any such move could delay Hicks' case for months.

"When a prosecutor uses this tactic of making criminal charges against someone's lawyer, it really could lead to that lawyer having to be removed from the case," Mori told ABC radio.

Hicks, who was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 and is accused of supporting the Taliban, was charged last week with providing material support for terrorism. He must appear before a military commission on the charge within 30 days.

"Unfortunately it's just not going to be a speedy thing to get David another lawyer down at Guantanamo," Mori said.

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