War court's first convict wants his get-out-of-Guantánamo guilty plea canceled

Lawyers for so-called Australian Taliban David Hicks — the first man to trade a Guantánamo guilty plea for his freedom — appealed that conviction Wednesday in an argument that invokes a civilian-court ruling that disqualified providing material support for terrorism as a war crime.

Hicks, 39, a self-styled soldier of fortune from Adelaide, Australia, who at one point converted to Islam, was captured in Afghanistan early on in the U.S. invasion following the 9/11 attacks.

He was brought to Guantánamo the day it opened, Jan. 11, 2002, and pleaded guilty in 2007 in exchange for his release. He is now back home.

His lawyers called his guilt “illusory” in a summary of their filing, which was still under seal at the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review. In July, a federal court nullified the material support and solicitation convictions of Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a Yemeni captive still at Guantánamo.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the Guantánamo war court can’t use those charges for events that took place before Congress created them as crimes in the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Hicks was accused of war crimes related to conduct before his capture in late 2001.

“No matter how this case is framed, David Hicks was convicted of a non-offense,” said attorney Wells Dixon at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which worked on the filing. “The principled and just result is to set aside his conviction without delay, as would happen in any ordinary criminal case.”

Hicks’ lawyers had earlier appealed the conviction as the “unknowing, unintelligent, and involuntary” act of a tortured, suicidal captive at the U.S. military prison camps in Cuba. The military appeals court has yet to hear that appeal.

Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg tweets @carolrosenberg

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