Sydney: Australian Prime Minister John Howard has dismissed calls for an inquiry into the bungled case of an Indian doctor suspected of terrorism, and said the Muslim medic should not expect an apology.
Mohamed Haneef was held for more than three weeks and charged with providing “reckless” support to a terror group in connection with last month’s failed car bombings in London and Glasgow.
Doctor takes flight
The doctor may have taken the flight back home from Australia but the debate over whether he should have been arrested and if the Australian police tackled the case efficiently continue to be subjects of debate.
The case against him collapsed on 27July due to lack of evidence, and he was cleared of the charge and allowed to fly home. Upon his arrival in India on 28July, he admitted being traumatized by the experience, which included having his work visa revoked.
Australia unwilling to say “Sorry”
But Howard defended Australia’s handling of the case, the first under tough new anti-terror laws, saying that when it came to preventing attacks, it was “better to be safe than sorry.”
“Australia will not be apologising to Dr. Haneef,” he told reporters. He was also not victimized and Australia’s international reputation has not been harmed by this ‘mis-start´ to its new anti-terrorism laws,” He clarified.
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, who has drawn fierce criticism for withdrawing Haneef’s working visa just hours after he was granted bail on the terror charge, also said he would not be apologizing to the doctor.
“There’s nothing to apologize about because in my discretion, looking at the evidence that the Australian Federal Police provided to me, he failed the character grounds,” he told reporters in Hobart.
Scenes before the arrest
Haneef was arrested at Brisbane airport on 2July as he attempted to fly to his home city of Bangalore on a one-way ticket, just days after two of his cousins were linked to planned attacks in Britain.
The case hinged on a mobile phone SIM card which Haneef last year gave to his second cousin Sabeel Ahmed, who has been charged with withholding information over last month’s failed bombings in London and Glasgow.
Sabeel’s older brother Kafeel Ahmed is under police guard in a British hospital with severe burns after allegedly ramming a blazing car into Glasgow Airport on 30 June.
Views from the sidelines
Government has been accused of using the case to show its tough-on-terror credentials ahead of upcoming election. It dismissed calls for judicial inquiry in the matter, saying the case demonstrated the way the country’s legal system worked.
Critics say the doctor, who cannot work in Australia without a visa, should be entitled to compensation for his arrest and detention. “I think he’s probably owed a lot of money,” the former head of the National Crime Authority, Peter Faris, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Certainly he is owed an apology.”