Sun, Nov 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Canberra conspired to imprison Muslim doctor, reports say

AFP AND AP , SYDNEY AND CANBERRA, WITH STAFF WRITER

The Australian government had a secret plan to keep a Muslim doctor linked to failed terror bombings in Britain in jail even if he was released on bail, and despite top police telling the government there was no evidence that he was a threat to the country, reports said yesterday and Friday.

The Australian newspaper yesterday cited a document obtained under Freedom of Information rules that said the head of counter-terrorism for the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Frank Prendergast, had concluded that the doctor, Mohamed Haneef, was not a threat to Australia based on a "fortnight of intense investigations."

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews has maintained that his decision to act against Haneef was based on AFP advice, which he has refused to disclose in full.

On Friday the Australian said e-mails obtained by Haneef's lawyer through freedom of information laws showed the government and the federal police, including Prendergast, also conspired against the doctor to keep him behind bars.

One e-mail, which the paper said was forwarded to a senior bureaucrat who advised Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews on the case, indicated arrangements had been made to keep Haneef detained under immigration laws before the bail hearing.

"Contingencies for containing Mr Haneef and detaining him under the Migration Act, if it is the case he is granted bail on Monday, are in place as per arrangements today," it said.

The immigration minister would necessarily have been involved in any detention of the Muslim doctor under the Migration Act, the newspaper said.

Haneef, who was charged with supporting a terrorist organization, was released on bail by a magistrate who said the police case linking him to the failed car bombings in Britain in June was weak.

But the 27-year-old Muslim medic, a cousin of the alleged bombers who had always pleaded his innocence, was immediately detained after the immigration minister revoked his visa.

Through his spokeswoman, Andrews said the decision to revoke Haneef's working visa was entirely unrelated to the e-mails.

"It's not our e-mail and it's not something we considered beforehand," she told the Australian.

Haneef was picked up at a Brisbane airport with a one-way ticket to India in the days following two failed car bombings but the case against him later collapsed for lack of evidence and he returned to India.

Meanwhile, Egyptian-born Sydney resident Mamdouh Habib, 51, an Australian once held as a suspected terrorist by the US military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has lost a legal bid to regain his passport after a tribunal ruled he continued to pose a security threat, his lawyer said on Friday.

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