Michael “Dan” Mori is a former Marine Corp attorney who gained fame defending Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, an Australian national captured by the Americans in Afghanistan. With Mr. Mori’s help, Mr. Hicks accepted a favorable Alfred plea (basically meaning that he did not admit guilt, but agreed that there was enough evidence to convict him). He was sentenced to seven years in prison for supporting terrorists, a charge that he denies. All but nine months of the sentence were suspended. Mr. Hicks served most of his nine months in Australia and was released. The plea came after five years at Gitmo, under less than pleasant circumstances. The case gained quite a bit of attention, as it was the first conviction by a U.S. war crimes tribunal since World War II.
After the Hick’s case, Mr. Mori’s career in the Marines apparently stalled. He alleged (in a lawsuit) that the military retaliated against him for his work on Mr. Hick’s case. He eventually was promoted, but retired soon thereafter and moved to Australia. There, he started work at the plaintiff law firm Shine as a Social Justice Consultant.
It seems that Mr. Mori’s latest project is to help asylum seekers detained by the Australian government on the island of Nauru.
Nauru is a small island republic in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. The country became wealthy in the 1960s and 70s by exploiting mineral resources, but when those ran out, the economy went bust. In 2001, Nauru entered into an agreement with Australia to house refugees seeking admission to Australia. In exchange, Australia provides Nauru with financial assistance and technical aid.
The refugee detention center on Nauru has been controversial, and it has closed and re-opened several times. The latest incarnation of the detention center opened last year in August and holds about 400 men. After a visit to Nauru, Amnesty International described the camp as “a human rights catastrophe … a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions.”
In September 2012, there was an alleged riot at the camp and property was destroyed. The government charged 10 detainees with rioting and destruction of property. The case of the “Nauru 10″ is currently pending, and this is where Mr. Mori comes into the picture.
Mr. Mori and other defense lawyers filed a habeas corpus petition in Nauru, claiming that the detainees are being unlawfully held. The defense team convinced a Nauru court to adjourn the criminal charges until the habeas issue is resolved, and that issue remains pending.
“Whether or not you agree with the process… you have to agree that people being detained should have access to legal help,” said Mr. Mori, who compared the situation in Nauru with Guantanamo Bay. “You have to push the politics aside and remember, if someone’s detained they need access to the law.”
There is a lot at stake for Nauru, which has become dependent on the Australian aid, and for the asylum seekers, whose fate rests in the hands of the Nauru court system. I hope that Mr. Mori and the other lawyers can bring a measure of justice to this obscure corner of the globe.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.