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Indian doctor's police detention extended till Jul 6

Australian police have been granted an extra two days time to question 27-year-old Mohamed Haneef.

world Updated: Jul 06, 2007 15:51 IST
Rob Taylor

Australian authorities have ramped up security across the country as British police travelled to Brisbane to help interrogate an Indian doctor detained over the plot to detonate car bombs in London and Scotland.

Police in Queensland state, where hospital registrar Mohamed Haneef, 27, was stopped trying to leave the country on Monday, said they were increasing security for a three-day meeting of Asia-Pacific trade ministers in the tropical city of Cairns.

US Trade Representative Susan Schwab is attending the APEC trade meeting, along with senior Asian counterparts.

Security was being boosted in Brisbane for one of the country's biggest sporting fixtures, a rugby league game, on Wednesday night.

Measures were also being reviewed for a September summit in Sydney to be attended by 23 world leaders, including US President George W Bush and China's Hu Jintao.

"We will do all we can to prepare against, to control, to prevent, any incident that may occur, whether that's a public order matter through protesters or, the horrible thought, a terrorist attack," said New South Wales Acting Premier John Watkins.

A British police counter-terrorism chief inspector was due in Australia late on Wednesday to assist in the questioning of Haneef, who had a court-approved detention order extended until Friday at the request of Australian authorities.

Mobile phone card

The Gold Coast Hospital registrar, recruited to Australia last year from Liverpool, England, has not been charged. He left his Internet access and mobile phone card with the British suspects before leaving for Australia, police sources said.

"We are hopeful that we'll be able to clarify his situation in the course of the next 48 hours or so," Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty told Australian television.

Keelty said a decision whether to charge, release or extradite Haneef would be taken by the end of the week. British police have not yet asked for his extradition.

But under tough Australian anti-terrorism laws introduced after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States but unused before this week, Haneef could be held without charge for up to 28 days if a court judge agrees.

"That has to be based on reasonable grounds, there's a limit to what we can do here and that's appropriate," Keelty said.

Police have searched Haneef's spartan apartment. His hospital employers said they were keeping his job open.

"He's a fairly quiet doctor, very conscientious, and performed at a very high clinical standard and he is very well regarded by his colleagues and patients," Gold Coast Health Service acting manager Brian Bell told Australian radio.

Haneef was given emergency leave on Monday because his pregnant wife was unwell, Bell said.

The Indian consul in Brisbane complained that he had been given very little information about Haneef, even passport and birth details, as police interrogation continued.

Keelty said a second doctor hauled in for questioning had been released, with no evidence of his involvement in the international investigation.

Prime Minister John Howard said Australia's overall terrorism threat warning level would not be increased from the current "medium", despite Haneef's detention.

"There is nothing about the circumstances about the Australian connection, if I can call it that, with what has happened in the United Kingdom," he said.