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Australian police win more time to question Haneef

world Updated: Jul 11, 2007 18:31 IST
Neena Bhandari
Haneef

Mohamed Haneef who was held for nine days in Australia for questioning over failed car bomb attacks in Britain will remain in detention until Friday after a court adjourned a day-long hearing on his detention.

Australian Federal Police had been seeking to extend Mohamed Haneef's detention, so far without charge, for another three days, but Wednesday's court proceedings were consumed with legal argument and adjourned, his lawyer said.

Lawyer Peter Russo said the Brisbane court did not even discuss the police request to extend the Queensland-based hospital doctor's detention.

"There was legal arguments tonight and the magistrate has gone away to consider that. So, unfortunately it is not a matter I can elaborate on at this stage," Russo told local radio.

"We will have to wait until he makes his ruling on Friday afternoon," Russo said.

Haneef, 27, is one of six Indian doctors to have been questioned in Australia over the suspected Al Qaeda-linked plot in Britain. The others have already been released.

Two car bombs primed to explode in London's bustling 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.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has said an extension to Haneef's detention would give police more time to probe possible links to the foiled British car bomb attacks.

"Basically they've had sufficient time to do whatever they had to do. It's appropriate that our client be released back into the community," said Russo, before the court was adjourned.

PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE

Civil rights groups and lawyers in Australia have expressed concern that Haneef's detention without charge under terrorism laws is breaching his rights and the presumption of innocence.

The Australian Greens party called on Wednesday for Haneef to be charged or released. "It's quite an extraordinary period of detention," Greens senator Kerry Nettle told reporters.

But Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said he was satisfied with the police request for more time. He said more than 120 gigabytes of information had to be reviewed, equal to 31,000 pages of documents, after raids in Australia.

An Australian police agent has travelled to India to work with authorities there on more than 30,000 documents seized during searches in three Australian states. Indian police have also seized CDs of radical Islamic video material.

"This is not a situation in which the police are free agents in relation to holding people. These are the issues that the court has to take into account in deciding whether or not the period is reasonable," Ruddock said.

Under Australian terrorism laws, police can detain people and question them for 24 hours, then seek an extension to their detention. Police have so far only used 12 hours of that question time on Haneef, so still have another 12 hours of detention even if the court denies them an official extension.

Queensland state police commissioner Bob Atkinson said Haneef was being allowed to exercise his religious beliefs while being detained and had not complained about the conditions.

"We've made suitable arrangements, we believe, in terms of sunlight, exercise, food, all of those sorts of things," he said.

Haneef telephoned his wife in Bangalore about noon on Wednesday, said his lawyer. He said Haneef was relieved to have spoken with his wife who recently had a baby.

"He got a call through this afternoon. He was fairly elated that he got to make the call," said Russo.