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Dr Haneef charged with aiding terror

The AFP charges him with "recklessly" giving his mobile SIM card to people planning the UK bomb attacks.

world Updated: Jul 14, 2007 18:25 IST
David McMahon

Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef will remain in custody after being charged in the Brisbane magistrates court with supporting terrorism. He is the second person to be charged over the failed UK attacks.

A statement issued by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said on Saturday: "He has been charged with providing support to a terrorist organisation contrary to Section 102.7(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995.''

"The specific allegation involves recklessness rather than intention," AFP chief Mick Keelty said in Canberra. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail.

The Indian doctor is alleged to have supplied a mobile phone SIM card to brothers Sabeel and Kafeel Ahmed, who are being held by British authorities but have not yet been charged.

Despite a lengthy bail application, Dr Haneef must wait until Monday, when magistrate Jacqui Power will decide whether he should be released.

Under Federal Government legislation, those charged with terrorism offences can only be released under "exceptional circumstances". Defence barrister Stephen Keim, SC, argued the "extremely weak" case against his client was enough to justify his release.

Mr Keim said Dr Haneef left the SIM card with Sabeel Ahmed when he left the UK for Australia last year so Ahmed could take advantage of "an extra-minute deal" offered by the provider O2.

"It is not suggested that he is anything other than a foolish dupe who should have been more suspicious," he said. "For some reason he should have been aware that something was going to happen when the rest of the world didn't."

Commonwealth prosecutor Clive Porritt argued Dr Haneef had been "reckless" in giving the SIM card to the two men. He said Dr Haneef would have had some knowledge of the men's alleged links to terrorism.

"These are people who he lived with, may have worked with and certainly associated with," he told the court. Mr Porritt expressed fears the doctor would flee the country if released.

But Mr Keim said it would be impossible for his client to leave the country because his photograph had been plastered across newspapers and TV bulletins for the past two weeks.

He had also surrendered his passport. "Whatever flight risk he represented two weeks ago, he doesn't represent now," said Mr Klem.

Prime Minister John Howard said Dr Haneef was entitled to the presumption of innocence but defended the anti-terrorism laws, which allowed the AFP to hold him without charge for nearly two weeks.

"All of this is a reminder that terrorism is a global threat ... you can't pick and choose where you fight terrorism," he said.