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Pranab speaks to Australian Govt over Haneef

Australian government offers to conclude a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, reports Nilova R Chowdhury.
Hindustan Times | By Nilova Roy Chowdhury, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 19, 2007 08:48 PM IST

Concerned that the detention of Mohammed Haneef could cause a diplomatic fallout between the two countries, the Australian government on Thursday sought a conversation with India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and offered to swiftly conclude a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).

Briefing the media, the spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs Navtej Sarna said Mukherjee spoke to Alexander Downer, Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister, and conveyed India's "concern" that Haneef be treated "fairly".

Mukherjee and Downer "discussed the developments relating to the Haneef case," Sarna said, and the former "conveyed to Mr Downer the concern of the Indian Government and people that Dr Mohammed Haneef be treated fairly and justly under Australian law."

"The call was initiated at the request of the Australian side," the spokesman said.

A MLAT is normally the precursor to a formal extradition treaty between two countries.

The Indian High Commission in Canberra is helping Haneef's family arrange his legal assistance, but cannot directly intervene in the legal proceedings. India has had an "extradition arrangement" with Australia since 1971, but no MLAT or formal extradition treaty.

Mukherjee's conversation with Downer comes a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh publicly urged Canberra to ensure that "all facilities" be extended to the 27-year-old Indian doctor detained in connection with the failed terror plot in Britain.

The MEA had formally expressed its concern earlier this week and summoned Australian High Commissioner in India, John McCarthy, to urge fair and just treatment for Haneef.

The envoy was summoned a day after the Australian government invoked immigration laws to retain Haneef in detention after a court granted him bail in the failed UK terror attack case. He has been kept in solitary confinement and the case has created some public outrage in both countries.

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