GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- The second of four military commissions began today here at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for Australian David Hicks. An Australian citizen, Hicks is accused of conspiracy, attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent, and aiding the enemy.
Hicks was represented today by an extensive defense team, consisting of two detailed military defense counsel, Marine Corps Major Dan Mori, Army Major Jeffrey Lippert and Civilian Defense Counsel Joshua Dratel. Additionally, Hicks' has a foreign attorney consultant, Stephen Kenny.
Dressed in a dark suit, Hicks was escorted into the courtroom at 9:34 a.m. and seated at the defense counsel table next to Mori. He appeared stockier than in photos of him that have been shown extensively on Australian television and used in print media.
Hicks' parents were also in the courtroom; they flew from Australia to be present. At the request of the Australian government, Hicks was allowed to meet briefly with his parents before and after today's session. The hearing was also witnessed by observers from five domestic and international organizations.
Today's proceedings followed the same general format as yesterday's hearing for Salim Achmed Hamdan. After Hicks was seated, the commission panel entered the courtroom led by Presiding Officer Colonel Peter Brownback who called the session into order.
Major Mori began Hicks' defense with a general voir dire and then a separate voir dire of the individual panel members. Voir dire is an opportunity for the prosecution and defense to determine whether a commission panel member is qualified to impartially try a case.
In the afternoon, the hearing closed for a short session while protected information was presented but resumed in open session, finally concluding at 3:50 p.m. when Hicks was asked how he pleaded; he responded not guilty to all charges.
Brownback set November 2nd as the date for a motions hearing from defense and prosecution. Following the disposition of motions, the case is expected to continue with the presentation of evidence, tentatively scheduled for January 10, 2005.
As in the case of Hamdan, today's commission represents the U.S. government's commitment to ensuring that an accused receives a full and fair trial.