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Australia halts Indian doctor's bail release

Only hours after winning bail, Mohamed Haneef is placed in immigration detention and his visa is cancelled by the Australian government.

world Updated: Jul 16, 2007 14:31 IST
Michael Perry

The Australian government stopped an Indian doctor on Monday from being released on bail on terrorism charges linked to British car bombings by cancelling his visa and ordering him into an immigration detention centre.

Doctor Mohamed Haneef, 27, has been in custody since July 2 but was only charged on Saturday, sparking criticism by civil rights groups of his 12-day detention without charge.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) have charged Haneef with "providing support to a terrorist organisation" because he left his mobile phone SIM card with his second cousin, one of those linked to the attacks in London and Glasgow.

Two car bombs primed to explode in London's theatre and nightclub district were discovered early on June 29. The following day a jeep crashed into the terminal building at Glasgow airport and burst into flames.

Two people in Britain have also been charged in relation to the attacks. All but one of the eight original suspects are medics from the Middle East or India.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has defended anti-terrorism laws which allowed Haneef to be detained for 12 days before being charged, saying the laws are essential to protect Australian citizens.

An Australian court magistrate on Monday granted Haneef A$10,000 (US$8,700) bail, saying he had no known links to a terrorist organisation and that police were not alleging that his SIM card had been used in relation to the British terror plot.

Haneef's barrister Stephen Keim argued for his release, saying the case against Haneef was "extremely weak".

Visa cancelled

But within hours the Australian government stopped Haneef's bail release by cancelling his visa and ordering him placed in Sydney's Villawood immigration detention centre.

"I reasonably suspect that he has or has had an association with persons engaged in criminal activity, criminal conduct, namely terrorism in the UK," Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews told a news conference in Canberra.

Andrews said Haneef, who worked at a hospital on Australia's tourist Gold Coast city, had failed a character test and he had used his powers under migration law to cancel his visa.

Australia's immigration laws give the minister the power to cancel or stop a visa if a person fails a "character test" or is reasonably suspected of being involved in criminal conduct.

Andrews said cancelling Haneef's visa was unrelated to whether Haneef would receive a fair trial.

"This is unrelated to the question of proceedings in the criminal court in Brisbane," Andrews said. "This is a direct responsibility set out in the migration act, this is not the first person, indeed, whose visa has been cancelled."

Andrews refused to answer questions on whether his decision was a rebuttal of the magistrate's bail decision.

"The magistrate in Brisbane has a set of responsibilities which she has carried out and I'm making no comment whatsoever on the magistrate or any decision made by the magistrate," he said.

Haneef's case was adjourned to August 31.

Haneef will now be held in immigration detention until his trial. He will then be deported if he is acquitted of any crime, or once he has completed any sentence.