An Australian court yesterday overturned the government's decision to revoke the visa of an Indian doctor cleared of links to the failed terrorist attacks on London and Scotland in June.
Mohamed Haneef, 27, was arrested in Brisbane last month and held for more than three weeks on suspicion of having supported the failed plots. The charge was later dropped for lack of evidence.
But during his detention, Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews pulled Haneef's visa on character grounds, saying he had an "association" with two of the British suspects, Sabeel and Kafeel Ahmed.
Lawyers for Haneef appealed the decision saying Haneef's association with the Ahmed brothers was purely innocent, and therefore insufficient grounds for revoking the visa.
Federal Court Justice Jeffery Spender overturned the government's decision yesterday, saying Andrews made a technical error in canceling Haneef's visa on character grounds.
Instead, Spender said Andrews should have canceled the visa on the basis that London police had informed Australian authorities that Haneef was a suspect in the case and that he had been charged with a terrorism offense at the time the visa was canceled on July 16.
However, Spender said Andrews may no longer be able to use those grounds to cancel Haneef's visa. He gave the government three weeks to respond to his ruling.
Andrews said the government would appeal.
"When I made the decision to cancel Dr. Haneef's visa, I made it in the national interest and I stand by that decision," Andrews told reporters in Sydney.
Earlier, Haneef's cousin and spokesman Imran Siddiqui said the whole family was happy about the decision, but nervous about the possibility for an appeal.
"Every time we have positive news from the judiciary, there is bad news also," he said. "If they appeal, it's going to be another long matter."
Haneef had been charged with providing reckless support to a terrorist organization because he gave his cellphone SIM card to one of his second cousins, Sabeel Ahmed, when he left Britain in July last year.
British police have charged Sabeel, 26, with withholding information that could have prevented an act of terrorism. His brother, Kafeel, died this month of burns sustained when he allegedly crashed a jeep laden with explosives in Glasgow Airport on June 30.
Haneef has said that he gave his SIM card to his cousin so he could take advantage of extra minutes remaining on the plan, and had no idea of his cousins' alleged involvement in the terrorist plots. He returned to India after police dropped the charges against him.