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Wrong to charge Haneef: report

india Updated: Dec 23, 2008 10:24 IST

Reuters
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Australian police had no evidence to charge an Indian doctor, Mohamed Haneef, over suspected UK terrorist links in 2007, an official report said on Tuesday, calling for tighter oversight of national police and tough anti-terrorism laws.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) arrested Haneef in July 2007 and held him for 11 days without charge after his mobile phone SIM card was found on one of the people blamed for the botched 2007 Glasgow airport attack in the United Kingdom.

Haneef, who worked for a hospital in northern Queensland state, was later charged with providing support for a terrorist organisation, but the charges were eventually dropped and Haneef was allowed to return to his family in India.

"Errors were made from ground level to the highest level," Australia's Attorney-General Robert McClelland told reporters.

"A man was wrongly charged ... a man was detained for longer than was really necessary. These situations are totally unacceptable and should not have occurred."

A judicial inquiry into his arrest, ordered by the new Labor government, found Haneef had no prior knowledge or involvement in the 2007 Glasgow or London attacks and should never have been charged, saying some decisions in the case were "mystifying".

The report said the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) consistently advised the then conservative government there was no credible evidence against Haneef. The AFP also told the government the same thing, but later changed its position and backed a prosecutor's call to charge Haneef.

The inquiry cleared the government of former Prime Minister John Howard of wrongdoing and said Haneef's arrest was not politically motivated to capitalise on community concern about security. But it said the government failed to analyse the conflicting opinions held by ASIO and AFP.

"From a whole-of-government perspective ... no serious attempt was ever made to interrogate ASIO's assessment of Dr Haneef or to reconcile it with the approach pursued by the AFP," the report said.

Haneef, now living in the United Arab Emirates, has previously said his family is still coming to terms with what happened in Australia, but he could still return to the country.

McClelland, releasing the report to parliament, said no action would be taken against Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty or any other agency head.

He said anti-terror laws would be reformed to "protect the security of Australians while preserving the values and freedoms that are part of the Australian way of life".

Changes would include a National Security Legislation Monitor to oversee counter-terrorism laws and tighter parliamentary oversight of the Australian Federal Police, as well as reviewing the operation of the police detention powers, he said.

Australia has never suffered a peacetime attack on home soil, but 92 Australians were killed in bomb attacks on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in 2002 and 2005, and suicide bombers attacked Australia's embassy in Jakarta in 2004.