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Terror plot won’t shut out Indian doctors: Australia

Australia assures India that Haneef's detention will not lead to race-based screening of foreign doctors, report Sutirtho Patranobis and David McMahon.
Hindustan Times | By Sutirtho Patranobis and David McMahon, New Delhi/melbourne
UPDATED ON JUL 12, 2007 03:48 AM IST

Australia has assured India that the detention of Bangalore doctor Mohammed Haneef in connection with the failed terror attacks in the UK would not lead to a religion- or race-based screening of foreign doctors going to Australia to work.

“The screening will only be based on the standards of medical capacity of practice,” Australian Defence Minister Dr Brendan Nelson said in Delhi on Wednesday.

Nelson was in Delhi to meet External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister AK Antony over bilateral defence and maritime security issues.

Nelson, however, said Haneef would continue to be detained in Brisbane till the police were satisfied he was not involved in the failed terror plot.

The minister said that though Haneef was yet to be charged, he was still being detained because “it requires complex domestic and international investigations and the police require more time”.

In Australia, there is no limit to the number of days that a suspect can be held for interrogation, provided the court approves.

On the matter of the CBI asking for a Letter Rogatory — or a formal request from one country’s court to another’s for assistance in an investigation — Nelson said that legal processes would be followed.

In Brisbane, Haneef’s lawyer Peter Russo said his client was "relieved" after being permitted to make a telephone 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. “Haneef was fairly elated that he got to make the call,” said Russo.

Although Haneef’s extended remand ended on Wednesday, a wrangle over technicalities led to the next hearing being postponed to Friday. Haneef has been detained since July 2.

Some sections in Australia have criticised Haneef’s continued detention but Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said he was satisfied. “This is not a situation in which the police are free agents in relation to holding people,” he said.

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