Melbourne, July. 18 (PTI): Mohammed Haneef has said he fears being “framed” in the failed terror plot in the U.K and that he was not a radical, as the Indian doctor appealed today against the Australian Government’s controversial decision to cancel his work visa.
Haneef, who is charged with giving “reckless” support to his two cousins who are two terror suspects in the U.K, was being treated as a “terrorist” after he was moved from police cells in Brisbane to a high security prison in the same city. Officials said he would be kept alone in his cell for 23 hours a day, with one hour for exercise.
Haneef in his taped police interview leaked to “The Australian” newspaper insisted he knew nothing about the terror plot and that he was a Muslim with moderate views.
The doctor revealed he tried to telephone a British investigator four times to clear his name after learning he was wanted in the terror plot but the calls went unanswered.
Haneef said he feared being “framed” over a mobile phone SIM card he gave to his second cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, who has been charged by the British police.
“I have been a professional until now and I haven’t been involved in any kind of extra actvities,” the Bangalore doctor said in the 142-page leaked transcript.
In a surprise move, Justice Spender hearing Haneef’s plea questioned Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews’ interpretation of the character test used to revoke the doctor’s visa. The Federal judge asked on what basis did Andrews justify his “reasonable suspicion” Haneef had an association with terrorists, saying he(judge) himself would fail the character test.
The judge’s observations came even as protesters gathered in Sydney calling for Haneef’s immediate release from detention.
Australian Premier John Howard meanwhile played down the risk of a diplomatic rift with India on the Haneef issue.
Howard said “I don’t see any rift developing in relation to this matter”.(Haneef case).
During the brief hearing on Haneef’s appeal, Justice Spender told the Immigration Department’s counsel “Unfortunately I wouldn’t pass the character test on your statement because I’ve been associated with people suspected of criminal conduct.”
The counsel agreed that he wouldn’t pass the character test if he were a non-citizen. The hearing on Haneef’s appeal in a Federal court in Brisbane against visa cancellation has been fixed for Aug 8. Haneef told Australian Federal Police Agent Adam Simms, he had never had firearms, explosives or terrorist training and denied he had ever been asked “to take part in jihad or anything that could be considered similar to jihad”.
He described jihad as a life struggle rather than a violent revolution. “I’m clear from any of the things. I haven’t done any of the crimes. And I don’t want to spoil my name and my profession,” the doctor said in the police interview. He, however, admitted he knew two suspects detained in Britain.
Australian Federal Polce Commissioner Mick Keelty said the leaking of the interview,published in “The Australian”, could jeopardize Haneef’s trial and was being investigated as a possible contempt of court. One of Haneef’s lawyers, Stephen Keim, admitted he was the source of the leak and said he did it in public interest.
The publication comes amid intense debate about whether Haneef is being treated fairly by police and the Australian Government.
Haneef was asked by police what knowledge he had of the attempted attacks in London and Glasgow. He replied he had none.
“I’m clear from any of the things,” Haneef said. “I haven’t done any of the crimes.”
Separately, he told his interviewers he gave Sabeel Ahmed his mobile phone before he left for Australia because it had some unused credit. He also said he borrowed up to 300 pounds from Kafeel Ahmed in 2004 to pay for a medical exam.
Kafeel Ahmed is believed to have crashed the Jeep into the Glasgow airport and remains hospitalized with critical burns.
Haneef told police he was going to India to be with his family. His wife left Australia in March to return to Bangalore to give birth to their child, whom Haneef has not yet seen. He said his father-in-law paid for the ticket, and he intended to buy a flight back to Australia after he arrived in India.
After the attack, Haneef said he received a phone call from Sabeel’s mother, who told him that a British officer wanted to speak with him and gave him the officer’s phone number.
“She said to me that there was something wrong with your mobile phone, someone was misusing the thing,” Haneef said. “It’s safe for you to just let them know. So that they don’t think that you are … clear yourself. And also because I was about to leave, so that I’m not absconding from any place, as such. To inform to them.”
Haneef said he tried to call the number Sabeel’s mother gave him, but got no response. The police interviewer said he had checked and it appeared Haneef had called the British officer’s number four times on July 2, two days after the terror plot was foiled.
Haneef told police he held moderate Islamic views, and believed that “Every drop of blood is human. And I feel for every human being.” When asked, he declined to offer an opinion about Iraq or Afghanistan.
The Australian Federal Police suspects Haneef may have known about the terrorist attack in the U.K before they were hatched.
Queensland Police and Corrective Services Mnister Rudy Spene said Haneef would be treated as a terrorist prisoner kept alone in his cell for 23 hours day, with one hour for exercise the exception, and accompanied by two prison officers when he moves around.
“Anyone who is charged under terrorist legislation is obviously seen as a greater threat to the good order of our society than other type of prisoners,” she said.