Wed, Aug 01, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Australian police remain suspicious of Haneef role

AGENCIES , CANBERRA

Australian police continue to suspect that an Indian doctor was part of the failed British bombing conspiracy in June despite a terror charge against him being dropped for lack of evidence, a government minister said yesterday.

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews yesterday released some of the police evidence against Mohamed Haneef that persuaded him to revoke the 27-year-old doctor's work visa.

Andrews said he would not release all the evidence upon which he had based his decision because it could jeopardize continuing investigations both in Australia and overseas.

Haneef, who had worked as a junior doctor in an Australian public hospital for almost a year, was arrested on July 2 at an airport in Brisbane, on Australia's east coast, as he was about to fly to India.

British police had advised Australian investigators that two of Haneef's cousins had been arrested and his cellphone SIM card had been seized as evidence after failed car bombs in London and Glasgow, Scotland.

Citing police evidence, Andrews said that on the day Haneef attempted to leave Australia, he was told by one of his brothers in India in an Internet chat room: "Nothing has been found out about you."

The brother, whose name was not immediately available, told Haneef to leave Australia that day, Andrews said.

The brother also told Haneef to tell his hospital boss that he was leaving because his wife had given birth and "do not tell them anything else," Andrews said.

"Investigators consider Haneef's attempted urgent departure from Australia on a one-way ticket for a purpose that appears to be a false pretext to be highly suspicious and may reflect Haneef's awareness of the conspiracy to plan and prepare the acts of terrorism in London and Glasgow," Andrews said.

Andrews did not say how the information was obtained, but police have said they seized Haneef's computer after his arrest and were sifting through tens of thousands of documents.

Haneef was reunited with his wife and newborn daughter in his hometown of Bangalore, India, over the weekend after spending 25 days in Australian jail on a charge of supporting the failed attacks by leaving his SIM card with a relative in Britain last year.

Haneef was allowed to return home after prosecutors on Friday dropped the charge because of a lack of evidence.

Haneef has called for Australia to apologize for his treatment and plans to appeal the minister's decision to revoke his visa in an Australian federal court on Aug. 8.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper yesterday said in an editorial that Andrews' "hounding" of an innocent Haneef was to make the government look tough on terrorism ahead of an election.

Haneef's lawyer, Peter Russo, said Andrews should outline all the unseen evidence against his client.

"If he is not prepared to do that, he and his ministerial colleagues should stop their campaign of innuendo and slander," Russo said.

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