Australia's anti-terror laws to be reviewed
— A government-ordered inquiry into the bungled case of an Indian doctor
wrongly linked to attack plots in Britain last year has recommended tougher
oversight of Australia's anti-terrorism laws.
In its 310-page report
released Tuesday, the inquiry found the Australian Federal Police had no
intelligence to justify the arrest of Mohamad Haneef, who became a test case
for tough counterterrorism laws introduced after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Dr. Haneef, 29, was working in Queensland state as a doctor when he was
arrested by federal police as he tried to board a one-way flight to India.
The arrest came days after one of his cousins allegedly drove an
explosive-laden SUV into Scotland's Glasgow airport in a suspected terrorist
Police said they thought it was suspicious that Dr. Haneef had bought a
one-way ticket. Dr. Haneef told police he was rushing to see his sick
newborn daughter in Bangalore and planned to return.
He was held without charge for 12 days under anti-terror laws before being
charged with providing support to a terrorist organization. The charges were
later dropped, but his visa was still revoked.
Dr. Haneef's ordeal triggered a political storm about whether the former
conservative government and the federal police were deliberately fuelling
“I could find no evidence that he was associated with or had foreknowledge of
the terrorist events,” former New South Wales state Supreme Court Judge John
Clarke wrote in the report released Tuesday.
The terrorism charge was based on Dr. Haneef giving his cellphone SIM card to
his cousin Sabeel Ahmed, one of the men accused in the attempted bomb attacks.
The charge was dropped when it was revealed that Dr. Haneef's SIM card had not
been found in the Glasgow attack vehicle, as a prosecutor had claimed.
But with elections looming, then-Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews revoked
Dr. Haneef's visa saying he was not of good character. Critics said Mr. Andrews
was making Dr. Haneef a scapegoat to burnish the government's security
The court eventually ruled Dr. Haneef's visa should be reinstated. After
winning the election, new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government ordered Judge
In the report, Judge Clarke said while Dr. Andrews was entitled to revoke the
visa, his decision to do so was “mystifying.”
Mr. Andrews on Tuesday defended his actions, saying Australians expected him
to act in the case.
Judge Clarke recommended Australia's anti-terrorism laws be independently
reviewed and that a case management system for major police investigations be
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the government would adopt all of the
“Clearly there were errors made at a number of levels — including at the
highest level,” Mr. McClelland told reporters in Sydney.
In a conference call from the United Arab Emirates, where he now lives, Dr.
Haneef told reporters he was pleased with the findings.
“It is a very clear finding that I am totally innocent of the matters alleged
against me last year,” said Dr. Haneef, who is considering pursuing compensation
from the government.
The federal police welcomed the findings, but defended its officers in a
statement saying their actions were taken in “good faith and in the best
interests of public safety given the circumstances at the time.”
The inquiry cleared Australia's previous conservative government of any
wrongdoing and concluded there was no political motivation behind Dr. Haneef's
Peter Russo, one of Dr. Haneef's lawyers, said he was troubled the inquiry
didn't assign accountability for the bungled investigation. “I'm a bit cynical
about the interaction between the different agencies and the politicians,” Mr.