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Haneef can never do this, says family

The arrests spark fears about future job prospects of Indian docs in UK, report BR Srikanth and Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2007 15:44 IST
BR Srikanth and Vijay Dutt

Families of the two Bangalore doctors taken into custody in connection with last week’s failed terror attacks in the UK insisted they were innocent on Wednesday.

In Britain, the arrests — and the fact that all eight suspects were associated with the National Health Service (NHS) — sparked fears about future employment prospects of Indian doctors in the UK.

“We will expand the background checks that have been done where there are highly skilled migrant workers coming into the country,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in London.

He added: “We will conduct an immediate review as to what arrangements we must make in relation to recruitment to the NHS because of what we know has happened over the last few days.”

<b1>The doctor arrested in Liverpool was identified on Wednesday as Sabeel Ahmed. He has studied and worked with Mohammed Haneef, the doctor who was detained in Brisbane, Australia on Tuesday. Australian authorities have extended Haneef’s custody by two more days. A second Indian doctor detained with Haneef on Tuesday was, however, released.

Among the other suspects are two Iraqis and two Jordanians. Two suspects remain unidentified.

In Bangalore, the families of Haneef Sabeel appeared shattered.

“He’s innocent. He can never do such a thing. We are praying that he comes out free,” Zakia Ahmed, Sabeel’s mother, said. Haneef’s wife Firdous said, “Haneef’s achievements are all due to merit. Ask anybody. He’s innocent.”

Dr Haneef’s family said he was paying for giving his mobile phone SIM to a friend before he left the UK for Australia in 2006. The SIM may have been misused, they said.

“He called us before leaving the hospital (in Australia where he worked). He was on his way to visit us to see his baby, born just a week ago ,” Haneef’s sister Sumaiya said.

Haneef and Sabeel are related, went to the same medical college, and stayed together in the UK. “Haneef visited us when they were students,” Zakia said.

The arrests have left the Indian community in Britain highly perturbed, since the attackers are being linked to the Al-Qaeda. Until now, it was the community’s proud boast that no person of Indian origin had ever been questioned or raided by British anti-terror agencies.

Many Indians felt that while Indian doctors would continue to get jobs in the UK, the process of their security clearance would henceforth take longer. “There will definitely be delays in clearance,” said Dr Shiv Pandey, MBE, the only Asian to have been treasurer of the Britain’s General Medical Council (GMT).

“I would advise Indian doctors trying to get here not to give up their existing jobs until they have been cleared by both the National Health Service and Immigration.”