In March 2007, Australian native David Hicks, who was a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, became the first person to be sentenced by a military commission convened under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. At the time, critics charged that Hicks’ sudden plea bargain appeared to be the result of a political deal between Vice President Cheney and then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
A month before Hicks’ sentence was announced, Cheney visited Howard in Australia, where the Australian PM lobbied for the trial to “be brought on as soon as humanly possible and with no further delay.” At the time, Howard was in a tough re-election fight and Hicks’ fate was an issue in the campaign.
Yesterday, Col. Morris Davis — who was the lead prosecutor in Hicks’ trial — told Australia’s Herald Sun that he was “leaned on” by the Pentagon in a manner that “only made sense in political context“:
On the end of the line was the Pentagon’s general counsel, William “Jim” Haynes. He asked Colonel Davis how soon he could charge Hicks. The Australian had been held in custody without a hearing for five years after being picked up in Afghanistan in late 2001. [...]
The only way Colonel Davis could make sense of what he was hearing from Mr Haynes was in the context of what he was reading about the political environment in Australia. [...]
Colonel Davis says the phone calls he got from Mr Haynes and the timeline in Australia in which a “loyal ally” in Mr Howard was eyeing a difficult election and wanted to get the Hicks matter put to rest, means the nine-month sentence deal that got Hicks home has a “bad odour”..”
Davis, who has previously said that he “felt pressure to pursue high-profile convictions ahead of the 2008 elections, resigned from his position in October 2007 after he was placed under Haynes in the chain of command. Last week, Davis told the Nation that Haynes had insisted to him in 2005 that the Pentagon “can’t have acquittals” at Guantanamo because they’d “been holding these guys for so long” and it would be difficult to “explain letting them get off.”
Haynes announced yesterday that he is resigning in order to return “to private life next month.”