Shortly before Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef, absolved of terror charges in connection with the failed car bombings in UK, left for India, Australia’s police chief said the investigations into the case faced several obstructions including incorrect intelligence inputs from British authorities.
“British police initially told Australian investigators that Haneef’s cellphone SIM card had been found inside a jeep allegedly used by his cousin Kafeel Ahmed in a failed car bombing in Glasgow on June 30,” Australian federal police commissioner said. “Instead, the SIM was found in the home of Kafeel’s brother, Sabeel, in Liverpool several hundred kilometres from the attack scene,” he said.
“Whatever else you may think of Haneef, the fact remains his SIM card was found in the possession of the person labelled as a (suspect),” in the failed terror attack, Keelty said.
“You can’t blame Immigration minister Kevin Andrews. He acted on our information,” the police chief said, and also called on the Bar Association of Queensland to “severely reprimand” Haneef’s barrister Stephen Keim for leaking his client’s police interview to the media.
Meanwhile, in Melbourne, despite facing calls for an inquiry into his handling of the case of Mohammed Haneef, Australian immigration minister Kevin Andrews said he would not reinstate the Indian doctor’s visa which he cancelled on character grounds.
“His visa’s been cancelled and unless there is some overturning of that by the Federal Court, it’s my indication that that visa will remain cancelled,” Andrews told the Melbourne medial.
“Nothing has changed in terms of the circumstances in which I had to make a decision concerning Haneef,” he said, amid widespread criticism of his intervention in the case.
Lawyers for Haneef are fighting in the Federal Court to have his work visa reinstated so he can one day return to live and work in Australia.
In Delhi, the government welcomed the return of Bangalore doctor after he was exonerated of terrorism charges in Australia. “We are very happy that he is returning after being absolved of terrorism charges,” minister of state for external affairs E Ahamed said as Haneef headed home after about a month-long detention in Australia. India’s concerns were aired at the highest level, with PM Manmohan Singh emphasising that the Australian government should grant him all facilities under the law of the land.
Earlier, Australian media slammed the John Howard government for the “disgraceful” treatment meted out to Haneef. ‘For PM, it’s all in the Game’ was one of the headlines in The Age, with a photograph of Immigration minister Kevin Andrews trying to convince the media for his decision not to restore Haneef’s visa, which was cancelled on character grounds.
Stating that the “disgraceful treatment of Dr Haneef has all the hallmarks of a typical Howard government political play”, the daily criticised the Aussie PM for denying his involvement in the case by claiming that “he knows nothing”, and none of the key decisions in this case were made by him. “When will Howard take responsibility?” it asked.
“Mohammed Haneef’s character has been trashed by a government prepared to do anything to cling onto power. Yet, despite the collapse of the case, no one in the government has the decency to apologise or even admit that Haneef has been treated unfairly,” it said.
In an opinion piece, ‘The Australian’ said that in treating “an innocent man (Haneef) so harshly, the government has betrayed the trust that most Australians gave it relation to terrorism. It will be hard to undo the damage”.
“The incompetence of Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, government prosecutors and the police over the Mohammed Haneef case will damage the fight against terrorism in this country for years,” it said.
As a matter of fact, the Haneef case has been seen as a vindication for the media which ignored flak from Howard and police to point out flaws in the evidence. It was the media which revealed the mistakes that led to the collapse of the case on Friday last, involving false prosecution claims that included Haneef’s SIM card was found in a burning car which crashed into Glasgow Airport.