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Aussie police may free UK terror suspect Haneef

Australian Federal Police back off from court efforts to extend Dr Haneef's detention, reports David McMahon.

world Updated: Jul 14, 2007 00:52 IST
David McMahon

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has backed off from court efforts to extend the detention of Mohammed Haneef, the Indian doctor held for the past 11 days for suspected involvement in the failed London and Glasgow bombing plots.

A spokesman for the AFP said an application for the extension of "dead time", defined as the period in which, a person could be held while an investigation took place but not questioned, in a Brisbane court, had been scrapped.

Freedom, however, is still a still a nebulous concept for Dr. Haneef despite the AFP decision even as his landlord was considering evicting him for falling behind on his rent.

But it could still be three days before Dr Haneef is released or charged. Police are believed to have a period of 12 hours, which can be spread over a 72-hour span, in which to question the detainee.

The AFP spokesman revealed that questioning had commenced at 10:30 am IST on Friday. It is further understood that the time frame for the questioning process is to be determined by Dr Haneef himself and will then be followed by the interviewing officers.

The Indian-born doctor consented to provide DNA samples to the AFP, as well as allowing them to fingerprint him. His lawyer, Peter Russo, said he believed the DNA tests were merely a routine procedure.

"He wanted me to tell him - 'What do I do here?'," he said. "I explained to him, 'You can either do it by consent or they go and see a magistrate and get an order; it's my view that a magistrate would order it, so what do you want to do?'

"He said, 'Oh well if that's the case then we might as well go in there'."

Mr Russo said his client, who has been in the Brisbane watchhouse since 2 July, was beginning to get depressed and `` a bit teary’’.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told Sky News he believed police dropped their bid to extend Dr Haneef’s detention because their investigation had turned up enough information. ``I assume they are satisfied that they have sufficient information about which they can pursue questioning," Mr Ruddock said.

"I can't speak for the police on this, but it may well be that the issues that they wanted time to examine and push for extra time to do so could have been addressed in that additional administrative time that was given while the magistrate was considering the earlier applications."

Mr Ruddock said he believed the police had behaved professionally, appropriately and prudently in all their dealings with Dr Haneef. The right to life and safety had to be balanced against the concerns of people who thought the anti-terror laws infringed civil liberties, he said. ``In all times, the process has been under supervision by a judicial officer.’’

Dr Haneef’s problems were compounded yesterday morning when it emerged that he was facing possible eviction for unpaid rent after being detained. It was thought that he was a week behind in rent for his Southport apartment.

Landlord Callum Spence said he had sought legal advice on whether he could evict Dr Haneef. "My solicitors think there must be some breach of contract but they're waiting to see what happens with police,'' Mr Spence said in an interview with `The Gold Coast Bulletin’.

He emphasised the eviction plans were not linked to the current investigation. "I'm not going to evict him because of what's happening, I'll only do it because I need the rent money,'' he said. "If they (police) cut him loose then he can come back here but I don't think he'll want to stay.''

Mr Russo mediated in the matter, saying: "Because of the isolation, he (Dr Haneef) might be feeling a bit lonely and a little bit out of the loop. I've spoken to the landlord to put his mind at ease (over the unpaid rent). We've done a little bit of work on that and we don't think it will be an issue."

He said the main concern was the mess in the apartment after the execution of a search warrant last week. But Mr Ruddock said the AFP is not responsible for covering Dr Haneef's rent while he is in detention.