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Australia cautious on Haneef's 'Al-Qaeda links'

Australian authorities have seen no evidence linking Indian doctor, Haneef, to the Al-Qaeda terror organisation, police chief Mick Keelty said on Thursday.

world Updated: Aug 02, 2007 12:01 IST

Australian authorities have seen no evidence linking an Indian doctor who was detained in Australia over a British car bomb plot to the Al-Qaeda terror organisation, police chief Mick Keelty said on Thursday.

Australia's SBS television late on Wednesday said it had obtained an unsigned and undated "dossier," apparently compiled by Indian police, which appeared to suggest Mohamed Haneef had "alleged links" with Al-Qaeda.

Keelty said he had not heard of such allegations against Haneef -- who was freed from custody on Friday after charges against him collapsed and left the country the next day -- but said they should be investigated.

"We don't have anything that positively says that in Australia but of course it is an avenue of inquiry and if that is what the Indians are saying it needs to be followed through," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"It emphasises the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, there are a lot of avenues of inquiry that are still to be followed through," he added.

SBS's Dateline programme showed a four-page document which it said it had obtained from a senior Indian policeman in Haneef's home city of Bangalore.

Under the heading "Organizational set up," it contained the phrase "alleged links with Al-Qaida."

The purported dossier, apparently compiled only after Haneef was detained as he tried to leave Australia on July 2, concluded with an overall assessment containing a startling assumption about Haneef's links.

"After having his education in (the Indian state of) Karnataka, Mohamed Haneef must have come into contacts with the members of terrorist entities and assisted," stated the document, printed on plain paper without any letterhead or stamp.

The "dossier" contains no evidence to back up the claim and it was unclear whether it was the conclusion of a probe or simply a document prepared at the start of an investigation into any suspicions about Haneef.

Haneef's lawyer Peter Russo told the ABC from India that the claims were "simply untrue" and that they had never been put to Haneef either during his nearly four weeks in detention in Australia or back in India.

The 27-year-old doctor, who had been working at a state hospital in Australia, was charged with providing "reckless" support to a terror group in connection with June's failed car bombings in London and Glasgow.

That case collapsed for lack of evidence, drawing the government into an embarrassing row over its alleged political motives in wanting to seem tough on security issues, but Keelty said on Wednesday that terror charges could still be laid against Haneef.

The case against Haneef centred on a mobile phone SIM card found in the possession of a second cousin of his who has been implicated in the attacks.

Haneef said he had merely given the card away before moving to Australia to take up a hospital job and the collapsed case has sparked claims the investigation was badly bungled.

The contentious Indian document also noted that a bank locker key belonging to someone else had been found in Haneef's possession.
Keelty refused to confirm the existence of such a key, but said investigators were still following a money trail in their probe into Haneef's activities.

"Some of those avenues of inquiry I can confirm relate to financial transactions, but as I keep saying this is very much an ongoing investigation, it's a live investigation, and we need to let the investigation take its course," he said.