Brisbane: A court in Australia on Tuesday overturned a government decision to revoke the visa of an Indian doctor linked to failed car bombings in Britain.
Dealing a setback to the government, the Federal Court in Brisbane said it would restore Mohamed Haneef’s visa in 21 days, clearing the way for him to return to Australia.
Haneef’s family in Bangalore, southern India, welcomed the ruling, but the government indicated earlier that it might appeal.
His lawyer Peter Russo said the ruling had restored his client’s life and career and urged Immigation Minister Kevin Andrews not to appeal.
“I would hope the minister will accept the court’s decision with good grace and clear the way for Dr Haneef to return to Australia to complete his medical work and specialist studies,” Russo said.
Andrews had said earlier Tuesday that he was prepared to take the case to Australia’s top jurisdiction, the High Court.
“I don’t think today will be the end of the matter,” the minister told ABC radio. “It’ll probably end up on appeal and who knows even in the High Court one day.”
In Bangalore, Imran Siddiqui, a cousin of the doctor’s wife who said he had been nominated to speak on behalf of the family, said Haneef had been advised by his lawyers to “keep quiet” until authorities decided whether to appeal.
“Haneef is happy and so is the entire family,” Siddiqui said. “We are very gratified by the decision of the court.”
Haneef, 27, was working at a state hospital on Australia’s Gold Coast when he was arrested on July 2 and charged with providing support to a terror group on the basis that two relatives were involved in failed attacks in London and Glasgow in June.
The case centred on the fact his mobile telephone SIM card was found in the possession of a second cousin implicated in the attacks.
The government intervened when Andrews revoked Haneef’s visa hours after a court had granted him bail, ensuring he would remain in custody but triggering claims the Muslim medic was being made a scapegoat.
Andrews refused to restore the visa even when the charges collapsed after police and prosecutors admitted mistakes in preparing their case.
After being held for more than three weeks, Haneef voluntarily returned to India proclaiming his innocence and declaring his desire to get back his visa and job in Australia.
Haneef’s lawyers argued that he should not have failed a “character test” applied by the immigration minister simply because two of his relatives were allegedly involved in the attacks.
The federal court’s ruling Tuesday was that Andrews applied that character test incorrectly, although it granted a 21-day stay before its ruling comes into force to allow authorities to consider grounds for appeal.
Haneef has said he merely gave the card and its unused time to his cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, before moving to Australia a year ago.
Ahmed has been charged with withholding information about terrorism. His brother, Kafeel Ahmed, was the alleged driver of a flaming jeep that crashed into Glasgow Airport. He died of burns in hospital.