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Now, 'new evidence' against Haneef

world Updated: Aug 01, 2007 02:48 IST

Reuters
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Australia released new evidence on Tuesday against Mohammad Haneef, accused of links to a failed car bomb plot in Britain, as police and the government continued to face criticism over his bungled arrest and subsequent release.

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews released transcripts of an Internet chat between Mohammad Haneef and his brother Shuaib, which Andrews said raised suspicions about Haneef's knowledge of the plot.

"Investigators consider Haneef's attempted urgent departure from Australia on a one-way ticket, for a purpose which appears to be a false pretext, to be highly suspicious and may reflect Haneef's awareness of the conspiracy to plan and prepare the acts of terrorism in London and Glasgow," Andrews said.

Haneef, 27, was arrested on July 2 and eventually charged with recklessly supporting terrorism in a case centred on the loan of a mobile phone SIM card to a relative in Britain.

The charges were later dropped, sparking a political furore in Australia, and Haneef flew home to Bangalore at the weekend to see his wife and newborn daughter. He has denied any knowledge of the plot and his arrest has ignited concerns about Australia's new counter-terrorism laws.

But Andrews refused to reinstate Haneef's work visa, saying he was still suspicious of the doctor.

In the formerly classified transcript of the Internet chat, Haneef's brother told him: "Nothing has been found out about you," and the pair then discussed Haneef's reasons for applying for urgent leave and for returning to India, Andrews said.

Haneef did not ask for leave from his hospital until six days after his baby was born, and only after two phone calls, one from India, where the bombings and the use of his mobile phone SIM card were discussed, Andrews added.

He said the transcript was only part of the classified evidence against Haneef, which police were still investigating.

The escalating row threatens to engulf Andrews and Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty just months from a national election in which security issues will dominate.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Tuesday said in an editorial that Andrews' "hounding" of an innocent Haneef was to make the government look tough on terrorism ahead of an election.

Prime Minister John Howard has won four elections, the last two on the back of strong national security credentials, but has warned his conservative government faces annihilation against a far more popular Labor opposition.

Haneef's lawyer Peter Russo said Andrews should outline all the unseen evidence against his client.

"If he is not prepared to do that, he and his ministerial colleagues should stop their campaign of innuendo and slander," Russo said.