US free to tap Hicks' calls 

By Rebecca DiGirolamo and The Sunday Times

07/08/03: (The Australian) WASHINGTON has cleared the way to eavesdrop on private phone conversations between Australian Taliban fighter David Hicks and lawyers.

Solicitors acting for Hicks, named last week as one of the first six Guantanamo Bay detainees ready to face military tribunals, have already been prevented from representing him because of a ban on non-American lawyers from proceedings.

Officials in Washington have now told American lawyers who wish to defend Hicks that they must waive their right of confidentiality during discussions with their client.

The Australian Government says it has US assurances that Hicks will have the right to a US civilian defence lawyer and an Australian legal representative, but they will have to waive confidentiality.

"(The waiver) was part of our considerations in reaching our position on the military tribunal," a spokeswoman for Attorney-General Daryl Williams said yesterday.

"There are similar provisions in US criminal law. They are used in extreme circumstances."

Adelaide-born Hicks, 27, has been held without charge at the Cuba camp since his November 2001 capture in Afghanistan.

Fresh instructions governing the trials require Hicks's civilian counsel to sign a written agreement relinquishing confidentiality.

Part of the agreement states: "I understand that my communications with my client, even if traditionally covered by the attorney-client privilege, may be subject to monitoring or review by government officials, using any available means, for security and intelligence purposes."

Monitoring of client-attorney conversations will occur in "limited circumstances" and will not be used in proceedings against the accused.

Hicks's Adelaide-based lawyer, Franco Camatta, described the rule as an "unbelievable" denial to independent advice and a fair trial.

"The process is a mockery of justice and we can give (David) no certainty that he will get a fair trial," he said.

"It basically means you may as well forget about having a lawyer because whatever you say is not confidential."

Hicks's stepmother, Beverley Hicks, said the US Government's treatment of David had been a continuous abuse of basic rights.

"I think it's absolutely disgusting. They are taking away everybody's rights," she said.

She was "extremely worried" about Hicks's fate despite assurances from Mr Williams's office last Thursday that his rights would be protected. "They said not to worry too much, that they had the matter in hand and (David) would have all his rights," she said.

Hicks's father Terry is retracing his son's steps to an Islamic school in Pakistan before heading to Afghanistan to make a documentary.

Mr Hicks, who left Adelaide for Pakistan last Thursday, was flying via Bangkok when President George W. Bush announced Hicks was one of the first six detainees eligible for a military trial.

Copyright: The Australian


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