Robert Richter is a prominent lawyer and criminal defence barrister in the Australian state of Victoria. He is a QC (Queen's Counsel) and is a past president of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties and former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association.
He writes here about the detention of Australian David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay for five years without trial. He criticises the Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer for their appaling handling of the case. But he saves his most vitriolic and florid language for the Australian Attorney General Mr Philip Ruddock.
He calls Ruddock a liar and a hypocrite and accuses him of "publicly prostituting his duties to the law". He then challenges the Attorney General to "sue him for defamation and take the risk of the facts emerging in any litigation".
This amounts to an extraordinary public attack by a senior jurist in a national daily newspaper, on the first law officer of the Commonwealth, who is a senior minister of the government and member of John Howard's cabinet.
The article was published today in The Age newspaper in Melbourne, which has been waging an open and public campaign to free David Hicks for some months now. The anger towards John Howard's government for its handling of Hicks' case has been building steadily and Howard's approval rating in opinion polls has been falling.
He is a liar when he pretends concern for David Hicks' fate. His protestations about Australia's efforts to secure a speedy trial for Hicks cross the line of decency when we consider that Hicks is, after five years, not charged with any offence. Nor is he subject to the jurisdiction of any lawfully constituted court of justice. We know he has not committed any offences against Australian law. Our A-G says so. We also know that he does not stand charged with any known crime against US law. So how is it that the Attorney-General has not demanded the return of Hicks to the country that owes him protection as a matter of law?