Melbourne: Australia on Thursday apologised to doctor Mohammad Haneef for wrongly detaining him on terror charges three years back, saying it was a mistake and hoped that the compensation paid to him will mark the end of an “unfortunate chapter”.
“The AFP (Australian Federal Police) acknowledges that it was mistaken and that Dr Haneef was innocent of the offence of which he was suspected,” the Australian government said in a public apology.
“The Commonwealth apologises and hopes that the compensation to be paid to Dr Haneef will mark the end of an unfortunate chapter and allow Dr Haneef to move forward with his life and career,” it said, according to AAP report.
Haneef, 31, is a cousin of Sabeel Ahmed - the main accused in the failed attack on the Glasgow International Airport in the UK in 2007.
The Indian doctor, who was working at the Gold Coast Hospital since September 2006, was arrested on 2 July, 2007 from the Brisbane airport.
He was charged with recklessly giving support to a terrorist organisation when his mobile phone SIM card, which he had left with his cousin before coming to Australia from the UK, was linked to the attack.
His 12-day detention was the longest without charge in recent Australian history, triggering outrage in India as well as in Australia.
The formal apology came after Haneef agreed on a substantial but undisclosed compensation payout from the government after two days of negotiations.
Before the mediation talks, Haneef’s lawyers had said the compensation could be upto one million dollars.
It was also acknowledged that arresting, charging, detaining and eventually cancelling Haneef’s visa created “serious consequences for him and his family” by the government.
The apology, which was released by the attorney general’s department yesterday, said that the terms of the settlement shall remain secret.
Haneef’s lawyer Rod Hodgson has said the apology reaffirmed his client’s innocence.
“We congratulate the government for recognising an injustice done on the watch of the previous government and for this public apology and declaration of innocence,” he said.
“The apology means a lot to our client.”
He said the financial settlement was “substantial” and Haneef was “delighted” with the deal.
In return, Haneef has dropped a civil claim against the government and defamation action against the former immigration minister Kevin Andrews, who had revoked the doctor’s visa after he got bail.