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Haneef 'relieved' after talking to wife

Dr Mohamed Haneef who was detained over his alleged involvement in the bungled UK bombings is said to be 'relieved' after making a phone call to his wife in Bangalore, reports David McMahon.

world Updated: Jul 11, 2007 21:29 IST
David McMahon

Dr Mohamed Haneef, the Indian doctor detained in Brisbane over his alleged involvement in the bungled UK bombings, is said to be "relieved" after making a phone call to his wife in Bangalore.

He was allowed to place the call shortly after mid-day Brisbane time, but security concerns meant that the Indian consulate first had to confirm the telephone number. According to his lawyer, Peter Russo, Dr Haneef "was fairly elated that he got to make the call".

As the period of Dr Haneef’s extended remand drew to a close on Wednesday, a magistrate gave the Australian Federal Police (AFP) permission to hold him for another two days, disregarding Mr Russo’s insistence that the doctor either be charged or released.

Dr Haneef has been held under federal counter-terrorism powers since he was arrested at Brisbane airport on July 2 before he could board a flight to India on a one-way ticket.

As part of the investigation, an AFP officer in India is believed to have spoken to senior intelligence officials. Australian authorities declined to identify the officer, but confirmed that police in Karnataka were working closely with the AFP member.

The case is rapidly becoming a political hot potato. The Australian Greens have called for Dr Haneef to be charged or released. Greens senator Kerry Nettle said: "It's quite an extraordinary period of detention."

On the other side of the political spectrum, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, a former Immigration Minister, said he was satisfied with the AFP’s approach.

Mr Ruddock pointed out that more than 120 gigabytes of information had to be reviewed, believed to be the equivalent of 31,000 pages of documents. "This is not a situation in which the police are free agents in relation to holding people," he said.

"These are the issues that the court has to take into account in deciding whether or not the period is reasonable."

Mr Ruddock said it was important that police were given time to investigate. "You would be asking me different types of questions if the inquiries were truncated unnecessarily and we found out later that there were avenues of inquiry that could have been pursued ... that would have been or may have been ascertained and weren't, if some terrible event happened in Australia," he said.

Queensland’s police commissioner Bob Atkinson said Dr Haneef was being allowed to exercise his religious beliefs and had not complained about the conditions in which he was being held.