Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Public Defender of the Year Award Nominee-Steve Wax

In late February, The Department of Defense informed the Office of Federal Public Defender in Portland, Ore., that three of its clients detained in Guantanamo bay were "eligible for transfer," or are eligible to leave the island prison.

One of those three is Adel Hamad, a native of Sudan declared an enemy combatant by the U.S. government whose life and legal case formed the centerpiece of what one Internet expert describes as a "visionary" video filmed and posted on YouTube by his lawyers in the Federal Public Defender's Office.
From national law journal

The Youtube video details Steve Wax's (head of Portland's Public Defender's office) trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan in an attempt to determine if Hamad's stories of innocence were true. As you can see in this video, all of the interviewed parties seem to agree that Hamad had nothing to do with the Taliban or any terrorist organization.

Another interesting part of this article is that when Wax learned that one of the three judges on the military commission who decided Hamad was an "enemy combatant" had dissented. Wax
later discovered there was a written dissent by a U.S. Army major who said that employees of groups with some ties to terrorism should not be automatically considered "enemy combatants." To reach such a conclusion would create "unconscionable results," he wrote.
The sad dark underbelly of this story though is the fact that not all local public defender's offices are going to go to this effort (btw, I still don't understand why Portland's public defender's office is defending a person detained in Afghanistan and held in Guantanamo). Plus, these secretive military commissions (and combat status review tribunals) only give the accused limited access to evidence and no right to civilian counsel in addition to allowing only cursory civilian appellate review by the DC Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. So even if someone goes to this effort, I'm not even sure this would be admissible in the kangaroo court military commission.

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