THE defence lawyer appointed to protect the rights of David Hicks and other al-Qaeda suspects is a former leading aide to US president George Bush Sr.
The revelation has raised questions about the independence of US Air Force Colonel Will A. Gunn, who has vowed to give the men the very best possible defence.
Col. Gunn is the American Department of Defence’s acting chief defence counsel and usually supervises the representation for the accused in military courts martial.
His appointment by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to defend al-Qaeda suspects has already caused major disquiet among human rights groups and MPs.
The suspects, including Australians Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, are among nearly 600 held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who face a possible death sentence for alleged terrorists acts and involvement in the war in Afghanistan.
Col. Gunn worked in Mr Bush Sr’s executive office.
Between 1990-91 the Harvard law graduate, a career air force officer who specialises in environmental law, was seconded to the White House as associate director of Cabinet affairs.
The executive office under Mr Bush Sr arranged his meetings with senior Cabinet advisers and has been described as the eyes and ears for the Cabinet within the White House.
Last night it was unclear whether he had met Mr Rumsfeld during his time in Washington. But many other senior officials in George W. Bush’s Administration also worked for his father.
Yesterday a spokesman for Amnesty International said: “No matter how strenuously Col. Gunn stresses the professionalism of his position, the fact remains that the entire system is a military one and cannot produce a fair trial.
“The military commission and even the defence counsel has been appointed by President Bush and (Mr) Rumsfeld and is likely to be guided by political, rather than judicial, concerns.”
A senior British Foreign Office source said the Government would increase pressure to ensure British citizens received a fair trial.