"Qatar is small; there are only 120 lawyers in the whole country and one’s name is very important," commented a Qatari prosecutor recently, as he and four of his fellow prosecutors (pictured at right) sat down with a panel of US attorneys on a recent visit to New Hampshire. "Everybody knows everybody else."
For this reason alone, a Qatari attorney may refuse to take a case. If the case concerns a sex-crime or is drug-related, taking that case may hurt an attorney’s reputation.
Michael Iacopino (Brennan, Caron, Lenehan & Iacopino, Manchester), a member of the NH Defense Bar who was on the panel and works in both the state and federal courts, asked, "Does such reluctance to take those cases impede the justice system?" He was assured that although there are many attorneys who won’t take those cases, there are some who will.
Under an exchange program developed by the Office of Prosecutorial Development (US Dept. of Justice) and the State of Qatar Office of Public Prosecution, the five prosecutors visited Concord in February as part of a two-week tour of courts in several cities in the US, including Washington D.C., Boston, Manchester and Concord. Michael Gunnison, first assistant US attorney for the District of NH, put the visit together. Gunnison spent several years in the Middle East as resident legal advisor to five countries: UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
The population of Qatar is approximately one million and the country itself is a little smaller than Connecticut. Although most law in Qatar is secular, Islamic law can be applied in special cases; if the defendant is Muslim, murder, theft, adultery, drinking alcohol, and armed robbery can all be tried under Muslim law.
While in Concord, the prosecutors, with their two translators, met with U.S. attorneys and public defenders in the above-mentioned forum at the federal courthouse on Feb. 10 to compare court procedures. Part of the discussion centered on the differences between prosecuting/defending clients in NH state courts as opposed to the federal court.
Iacopino and Bjorn Lang, a federal attorney, spoke at some length. Iacopino, who began his career as a public defender and is now a criminal defense attorney, said, "Every client facing troubled times has the right to representation. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but everyone has that right."
Said Lang, "Federal crimes differ in that often we are defending people who can’t speak English." He said they differ, too, in that many times it’s not individuals who are prosecuted, but companies or organizations.
However, both the attorneys—and others on the panel, which included US Attorney Thomas Colantuono and Assistant US Attorneys Clyde Garrigan, Robert Veiga, Al Rubega and Terry Ollila—emphasized one of the first principles of American justice: that everyone is entitled to a defense, regardless of the ability to pay.
After leaving the US Attorney’s office, the group toured the state house and met with Gov. Lynch and various legislators; they also visited the NH Supreme Court. Returning to the to the U.S. Attorney’s Office the following day, they sat down with Judge Laplante and Judge McAuliffe and afterwards met with the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council.
During their time in the US, said Gunnison, besides visiting courts, the tour also included visits to CNN Global Headquarters and the Carter Center in Atlanta, the forensics lab at the Dept. of Justice ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) in Maryland—and the US Supreme Court.
One of the high points of visiting New Hampshire, of course, was the evening spent at the Tilton Outlet Mall.