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Haneef case must end, say Australian lawyers

The Law Council of Australia is calling to put an end to the Mohammed Haneef saga even as a peeved Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews cries foul over national security.

world Updated: Aug 23, 2007 12:44 IST

The Law Council of Australia is calling to put an end to the Mohammed Haneef saga even as a peeved Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews cries foul over national security following the release of the full transcript of the Indian doctor's second interview with the police.

The lawyers of the freed terror suspect have defended the decision to make the transcript public as the Australian Federal Police awaits legal advice on whether Haneef's lawyers acted inappropriately in releasing it on Wednesday.

Law Council of Australia President Tim Bugg said: "Australians should be concerned that Minister Andrews is so determined to pursue the power to expel a person from Australia, on the basis that they have, without (investigating) more, merely associated with a suspected criminal. This is a character test that is not about character at all.

"The minister's continuing public comments on the alleged merits of the Haneef case, which are so inconsistent with any sense of procedural fairness or the presumption of innocence, provide sufficient cause for his removal," Bugg added.

The media and the legal fraternity have been scathing of Andrews' handling of this case.

Andrews told the media in Adelaide on Thursday: "The (AFP) Chief Commissioner, Mick Keelty, has said to me all through this that the information should not be released because it would jeopardise those investigations. Now they are, obviously, very concerned about, what they regard, the release of that transcript as irresponsible and unprofessional.

"... you know, this is a balance of public information on the one hand and national security on the other. And I don't think Haneef's lawyers running around conducting some sort of public relations campaign the way they are is doing anything in terms of the national security of this country and that's why the AFP are pretty annoyed," Andrews told the media.

However, an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald says: "...Yet if anyone looks suspicious, it is Andrews following yesterday's release of the full transcript of Haneef's second interview with federal police."

Haneef's legal team released a 378-page transcript of the second interview with Brisbane police held on July 13. Andrews had used selective quotes from the transcript at a July 31 media conference to justify his decision to cancel the Indian doctor's work visa, a decision quashed by the Federal Court in Brisbane on Aug 21, but the minister is appealing against it.

Haneef's lawyer Peter Russo said the information was put in the public realm because Haneef wants to prove that he had "nothing to hide".

AFP, however, is not happy at all. It said: "The continuing attempts by Haneef's defence team to use the media to run their case is both unprofessional and inappropriate and the AFP has raised this aspect with the Queensland Legal Services Commission. AFP has acted appropriately throughout the investigation."

In this federal election year, the Howard government is playing the counter terrorism card as a new survey shows Australians are becoming increasingly worried about their personal security and that of the nation. The Unisys Security Index gives Australians a rating of 144 out of 300 in terms of their collective security fears.

Haneef was in a Brisbane jail for 25 days from July 2 and returned to Bangalore after the Australian police dropped terror charges against him.

He was charged with being "reckless" in giving his mobile SIM card to his cousin Sabeel Ahmed, an accused in the British foiled terror plots, while leaving Britain for Australia to work in the Gold Coast Hospital.