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Decision on Haneef's visa reserved by court

world Updated: Aug 09, 2007 12:24 IST

Freed terror suspect Muhammad Haneef will have to wait until Aug 21 to know whether his visa will be reinstated and if he can resume work in Australia.

The Federal Court in Brisbane on Thursday resumed hearing the appeal against Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews' decision to cancel the Indian doctor's visa. Acting Chief Justice Jeffery Spender reserved his decision on Haneef's visa until Aug 21 after two hours of hearing.

Haneef's visa was revoked on July 16, hours after a Brisbane Magistrate's Court granted him bail on grounds that he had failed a character test because of his association with his second cousins, Sabeel and Kafeel Ahmed, both allegedly involved in the botched British bombings.

Solicitor-General David Bennett QC, who was representing Andrews, on Thursday said the minister had based his decision on a number of factors, including the fact that Haneef had lent his mobile phone SIM card to Sabeel when he left Britain in 2006 and had borrowed money from Kafeel.

The 27-year-old doctor also kept in contact with his cousins via internet chatrooms, most recently on July 26, three days before the terror plot unfolded, he said.

At the appeal hearing on Wednesday, lawyers for the former Gold Coast registrar argued that the minister's decision was based on "a misconstruction of the word association". It was no more than an "innocent association" and not a valid reason to cancel his visa, they said.

Judge Spender has been critical of the controversial character test applied to cancel Haneef's visa. He had said that by this standard he, too, would have failed the test as he had represented criminals during his career as a barrister.

Haneef returned home to Bangalore on July 27 after being incarcerated in Australia for 25 days on charges of supporting the botched British bombings. The charges were subsequently dropped. He has been asserting his innocence all along and has been determined to get his visa reinstated and clear his name.

He wants the option of one day returning to Australia and completing his medical training. But Andrews has said he still had suspicions against the Indian doctor. And Haneef's desire for "honorary" Australian citizenship has been rebuffed by Prime Minister John Howard as well.

Chances of winning such appeals are normally slim in a country where migration has always been a thorny issue and the immigration minister enjoys wide-ranging discretionary powers.