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'Haneef welcome to work in Queensland'

Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef, who was jailed on terrorism charges that were subsequently dropped, had been treated "absolutely appallingly" and was welcome to return to work in Queensland, the state's health minister said.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2008 16:44 IST

Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef, who was jailed on terrorism charges that were subsequently dropped, had been treated "absolutely appallingly" and was welcome to return to work in Queensland, the state's health minister said on Friday.

"Despite all of the hullabaloo that went on around the allegations and investigations under way, there was never any suggestion that he was anything other than a competent doctor," Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson told ABC Radio.

"From our perspective, there are no outstanding issues. My personal view is I think he's been treated absolutely appallingly. Certainly the Gold Coast health district have always held him in high regard," Robertson said, adding that Haneef was welcome to apply for his former job.

Haneef, a former Gold Coast registrar, was incarcerated in Australia for three weeks last July after being charged with supporting a terrorist organisation by "recklessly" giving his mobile phone SIM card to people planning the botched London and Glasgow bomb attacks.

Last week, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) dropped its investigation, after over a year of pursuing a botched terrorism case against Haneef that has caused the AFP much embarrassment and cost the taxpayer A$8.5 million.

The charges against Haneef were dropped and he returned to his family in Bangalore on July 29 last year. Haneef's work visa was reinstated last December by the new Labour Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

"Haneef has been cleared of any involvement in the terrorism attack on Glasgow airport and that he is 'no longer a person of interest' are testimony to the way the previous federal government used Dr. Haneef as a political pawn," said United India Associations (UIA) president Raj Natarajan.

"It is high time that the federal government should not only apologise to Dr Haneef but also to the law-abiding and socially responsible Indian community in Australia, in particular overseas trained Indian doctors, who experienced a community backlash because of this bungled investigation and the resulting unwanted media spotlight," Natarajan told IANS.

The series of events from the arrest of Haneef at Brisbane International Airport on July 2, 2007, until his release from detention and return home to Bangalore on July 29 last year is currently being investigated by the John Clarke inquiry - which was on Friday granted an extension by Attorney General Robert McClelland and will submit its report on Nov 14 instead of Sep 30.

Justice Clarke, who had been willing to speak with Haneef either in Australia or overseas, has said it wasn't necessary to interview the Indian doctor as the submission provided by his lawyers was sufficient.

He has also announced that his inquiry would hold a public forum in Sydney on Sep 22 on the effect of terrorism laws relevant to Haneef's case.

Haneef's lawyer Rod Hodgson has said his client would be seeking compensation after the federal inquiry into the case was over. "We have made no secret of the fact that he will be seeking compensation for the immense damage to his career, his family and his reputation."