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Haneef overwhelmed by people's support

Lawyer Peter Russo says that Haneef broke down after coming to know about the public support in Australia, reports David McMahon.

world Updated: Jul 19, 2007 19:00 IST

Lawyer Peter Russo revealed on Thursday that Dr Mohamed Haneef was moved to tears in prison, when told of a rally in support for his case.

Russo, virtually unknown outside Brisbane before he took on the Indian-born doctor as a client, addressed protesters outside the office of the Department of Immigration. He said Dr Haneef had been surprised and "deeply touched" when told of the rally.

"Some of what's occurring today may come as a little bit of a shock to him,'' Russo said. ''He was moved to tears when I told him about it. He hasn't understood the impact that it's had on the rest of the community and I don't think he regards himself as being such an important person.''

Russo said he expected his client would be amazed at his high-profile media coverage of his plight. Last night, for the first time since his arrest on 2 July, he was granted access to newspapers and television news reports.
"I'm pretty sure he will be stunned and he's going to have a million questions for me,'' Mr Russo said. He added that Dr

Haneef was happier to be at the correctional centre than at the Brisbane watchhouse and was looking forward to meeting his wife's cousin, who is scheduled to arrive in Australia on Sunday.

Mr Russo said his client was looking forward to finally seeing a picture of his new-born daughter. "He hasn't had access to a photo," Mr Russo said.

Meanwhile, controversial barrister Stephen Keim, who leaked the transcript of a police interview with Dr Haneef to the media, has challenged Australian authorities to charge him with contempt of court.

"If they think I've done anything wrong, they are free to take whatever proceedings against me they want to," Mr Keim said today. "They know (what) my address is. They can come and grab me any time they like."

Keim said he released the transcript to counter what he said was a campaign of selective leaking by unnamed officials that was designed to give the impression the case against Dr Haneed was stronger than it actually is.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said the leak was being investigated for possible contempt of court. Senior government officials condemned it as unethical and said it was designed to thwart justice.

But Keim said the law required that his client be given a copy of any police interviews, and that it was his to do what he wished.

It also emerged today that Dr Haneef made contact with his second cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, in an internet chatroom, just days before the attack on Glasgow airport. They are believed to have discussed the birth of Dr Haneef's daughter. Ahmed is the third person charged in connection with the bungled car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow.

As part of the fallout from Dr Haneef's controversial arrest, a business group has expressed concerns that the case could affect the lucrative trade between the two countries.

The Australia India Business Council (AIBC), which promotes trade ties between both the countries, asked the policy makers, the employers and the service providers "not to introduce, promote or tolerate" discriminatory practices towards people of Indian origin in Australia.

"In Australia the rule of law and the presumption of innocence are paramount," the AIBC said.

"As a national Australian organisation, the AIBC urges all Australians to respect these principles and to avoid ethnic, religious, professional or any other form of labelling that would apply suspicion of possible wrongdoing by one or a few individuals to stigmatise an entire ethnic, racial, national or professional group or community."