Sydney: Australia has dropped charges against Mohamed Haneef, the Indian doctor who they felt had been involved in the recent failed British car bombings. He was released from custody on the morning of 27July with the authorities admitting the mistake they made while rushing the case to court.
However, Australia’s top police officer refused to apologise to Mohamed Haneef, after the embarrassing backdown. The medic still faces possible deportation as he adjusts to house arrest after almost four weeks in custody.
Apologetic, and yet not quite
Red-faced officials said they withdrew the charge that Haneef “recklessly” supported the terror group behind abortive bombings in Britain last month after a review found there was not enough evidence to support a conviction.
“In my view of the matter, a mistake has been made,” Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Damian Bugg told reporters, adding that the review found there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction on the evidence. Bugg described the collapse of the case as “disappointing” and “upsetting,” adding “we are all human.”
The case against Haneef, who was arrested on 2July as he attempted to leave Australia on a one-way ticket to India, has been dogged by controversy and labelled a bumbling “Keystone Cops” investigation by critics.
Suspicions that led to the arrest
Haneef, 27, is alleged to have given a mobile phone SIM card last year to a relative subsequently arrested in connection with last month’s failed plot to bomb central London and Glasgow airport.
The doctor, who has worked as a registrar in a Gold Coast hospital since last September, has denied any involvement with the failed attacks and his relative charged in Britain is not accused of direct involvement in terrorism.
Bugg said one of his prosecutors wrongly claimed at the doctor’s original bail hearing on 16July that his SIM card was found in a burning car that crashed into Glasgow airport 30June.
It has since emerged that the SIM card was found eight hours later at a flat in Liverpool, some 300 kilometres (185 miles) from Glasgow, where Haneef’s second cousin was arrested.
Federal police commissioner Mick Keelty accepted the DPP’s decision to drop the case but insisted there was still sufficient reason to support an earlier decision to revoke Haneef’s immigration visa on character grounds.
Asked if he should express remorse about Haneef’s treatment, he replied: “An apology to Dr. Haneef is not a matter for the Australian Federal Police. Our obligation is to protect the Australian community from any type of terrorist threat.”
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, who controversially revoked Haneef’s visa 11 days ago to ensure he remained in custody after a court granted him bail, said the doctor would be released to home detention pending a final decision on his immigration status.
“He is free to move about in the community but as a matter of legal principal... he is formally in detention,” Andrews told reporters.
Australian PM’s stance
Prime Minister John Howard moved to distance his government from the debacle, saying Keelty and Bugg were responsible for the handling of the case.
“I think that the right thing now is for those two men to explain the process and explain the reasons,” he told reporters on a visit to the Indonesian island of Bali.
He explained, “Prime ministers and attorney generals do not conduct prosecutions, but directors of public prosecutions do.”