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I had no knowledge of car bombs: Haneef

Haneef has made a series of key denials and says he tried to speak to British police but his calls went unanswered, reports David McMahon.

world Updated: Jul 18, 2007 23:10 IST
David McMahon

Dr Mohamed Haneef, who is now being treated "as a terrorist" and held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, made a series of key denials during an earlier taped interview with Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers.

He said he had never been asked "to take part in jihad or anything that could be considered similar to jihad". He also claimed that he "repeatedly" tried to call a British police officer, but the calls – made on the advice of his father-in-law - went unanswered. He said he tried contacting Tony Webster in Britain after Sabeel Ahmed, his second cousin, was arrested in connection with the failed bombings in London and Glasgow.

Dr Haneef’s comments were reported in the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper The Australian after his barrister, Stephen Keim, admitted leaking the 142-page transcript of restricted police documents to the media. According to Mr Keim, the interview was conducted after Dr Haneef was arrested at Brisbane Airport on July 2.

The Indian doctor told the AFP "I haven't done any of the crimes." In the course of the taped interview, he admitted receiving money in June 2004 from Glasgow bombing suspect Kafeel Ahmed, but said the funds were to enable him to pay for a medical qualifying exam.

He said he had never received training in the use of firearms or explosives and that he had received no guidance on terrorist activities.

He also denied he had undertaken "any religious training." He said, "When you are growing up you get up with the things - how to read a Koran, how to perform a salaam. I haven't had any formal teaching of that."

"Jihad, to my understanding, it's a struggle. Just life itself is a struggle. The proper meaning of jihad is just struggle. I would say that's a basic sort of understanding I have. Yes it is often misquoted and misinterpreted in different context."

He also said he knew nothing about the failed blasts in the UK. When asked by Simms from AFP, if he had any information about the attempted bombing in London, he replied, "Sorry."

On being asked again, Dr Haneef replied, "I really don't know anything about that." Simms then said, "You know the attempted bombing we just had, in London. You must know." The Indian doctor responded, "Ah, I gather about Glasgow thing and there was some plot in London. But I don't know, I have not any relation with that at all."

When asked, during his time in the UK, if he had seen "any explosive devices, any components or electrical components, he replied, "No I haven't."

Simms then asked, "Did you ever have any prior knowledge or suspicion of the failed attack in London on June 29, or the bomb attack at Glasgow airport on June 30?" Dr Haneef replied, "No."

Because his legal team failed to comply with bail conditions set by Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday morning, Dr Haneef was transferred on Tuesday from police custody to Wolston Correctional Centre, at Richlands in Brisbane's south-west.

Queensland police and Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence said the conditions of his detention included no contact with other inmates, meaning Dr Haneef would be alone in a cell for all but one hour a day, when he is allowed to exercise.

He would also follow a different routine to that of other prisoners, she said. "A terrorist prisoner is required to be held apart from the mainstream prison population, so he will be held in a segregated environment, when he moves around the prison he will be accompanied by two prison officers," Ms Spence said.

She added, "Anyone who is charged under terrorist legislation is obviously seen as a greater threat to the good order of our society than other type of prisoners."

Ms Spence defended the high security around Dr Haneef's transfer in an armoured police van. "You have to appreciate he is being treated as a terrorist, that's the charges against him at this point in time, so it is appropriate that when he is moved from one place to another that he is heavily guarded," she said.

In prison, Dr Haneef will be managed as a terror prisoner under the Anti-Terrorism Act, but will still be permitted to speak to his legal representatives. He will also have access to television, reading material and a radio, but not to a computer.