More details of the Hicks plea bargain are now available, and they reek of a political fix.
According to The Age article, the deal was negotiated by the management of the military tribunals, bypassing both the prosecution and the defence:
US Defence Department lawyer Susan Crawford, who oversees the US military tribunals, bypassed the prosecution to reach a pre-trial agreement directly with the defence.
But her actions, interpreted by some US newspapers as a political favour to Bush ally Prime Minister John Howard in an election year, shocked the prosecutors on the case and the American legal establishment.
Lead prosecutor Colonel Morris “Moe” Davis was kept in the dark about the plea deal. He was astounded by the nine-month sentence, telling The Washington Post: “I wasn’t considering anything that didn’t have two digits”, referring to a sentence of at least 10 years.
Ms Crawford’s deal, which includes a gag on Hicks talking to the media for 12 months, also overrode the sentence of the military panel, which had agreed to seven years.
The timing would of course mean that while Hicks’s long nightmare will come to a relatively quick end, nothing will be heard directly from him until safely after the next federal election.
Ruddock and Downer claim no foreknowledge of the deal and that the extraordinarily politically convenient timing was pure coincidence, Ruddock claiming that he “was not aware that the Australian Government had put any view to the Americans on the length of sentence.”
What a strange world in which we live in which our ministers’ most remarkable talent is their incredible ability to not be aware of anything that might be politically inconvenient.
UPDATE: A lengthy, informative, and insightful post from Tim Dunlop at Blogocracy, who digs up more reports of political handprints all over the deal.