Australian Govt refuses to apologise to Haneef | india | Hindustan Times
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Australian Govt refuses to apologise to Haneef

The Australian government and opposition refused to apologise to Indian doctor Mohd Haneef, wrongly charged over a British terrorist plot, as his lawyers said they would seek substantial compensation.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2008 13:40 IST

Australia's government and opposition on Wednesday refused to apologise to an Indian doctor wrongly charged over a British terrorist plot, as his lawyers said they would seek substantial compensation.

Doctor Mohamed Haneef has demanded an apology for being mistakenly arrested, detained and charged over a failed July 2007 plot to detonate bombs in London and Glasgow, while his lawyers say he will seek compensation for his ordeal.

An official report released on Tuesday found that Australian authorities wrongfully arrested and held Haneef, now living in the Middle East, as they ignored evidence and botched the high-profile investigation.

But Attorney-General Robert McClelland said it was up to the previous Australian government to apologise, while his predecessor said Haneef should not be entitled to an apology or compensation for his ordeal.

"I don't apologise for seeking to ensure that the law works as intended," former attorney-general Philip Ruddock, who was in charge of the justice department when Haneef was arrested in July last year, told Australian radio.

"My view is that one should not apologise for seeking to ensure that matters that tragically occur that involve terrorist acts are thoroughly investigated to see whether or not there are any implications for Australia," he said.

"I have seen nothing in the report which suggests that the conduct that I undertook should have been conducted in any other way," he said a day after retired judge John Clark issued his damning report on the Haneef case.

Haneef's working visa was also revoked and he was unceremoniously kicked out of Australia even after the flawed case against him finally collapsed two weeks after it was launched in a blaze of publicity.

But the report by retired judge John Clarke cleared the then ailing former government of pursuing the case for political reasons.

McClelland said the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would not apologise at the current stage of the legal process as it was clear Haneef would launch an action for compensation.

"Representing the interest of the commonwealth and the taxpayers of Australia, it's not appropriate for me to make any admissions," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Haneef's lawyer said on Wednesday that his client, who claims his reputation was besmirched globally by the allegations against him that cost him his job, would seek damages from the government.

"This (investigation) was total organisational disaster. It had the effect of an innocent man being charged and detained and his reputation being destroyed," Bernard Murphy told ABC radio.

"So I think the heads of the claim will be malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and defamation. We'll be seeking substantial damages," he said.

Local media panned the Australian Federal Police (AFP), prosecutors and the former government for their roles in the disastrous investigation into Haneef, sparked by a tip from British police who linked him to a cell phone SIM card linked to one of the failed attacks in Britain.

The Sydney Morning Herald questioned why no heads will roll as a result of the findings of the inquiry and said the affair had undermined public confidence in the agencies involved.

"The Haneef case shows a shocking deficiency of leadership," it said, adding it suspected that a lack of objectivity by officers was partly due to the then conservative government, facing re-election, wanting the head of a terrorist.

"If anything good comes of the Haneef affair, it will be increased parliamentary scrutiny and continuing media attention to discourage police, prosecutors and politicians from deciding that they do not need much evidence to accuse an innocent," The Australian newspaper said.