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Aus inquiry looks at bungled terror cases

The Australian Govt set up an inquiry into Dr Haneef's case as a new report finds more cases could fail if police and intelligence agencies don't work more closely.
Reuters | By James Grubel, Canberra
UPDATED ON MAR 13, 2008 12:12 PM IST

The Australian government set up an inquiry into a bungled terrorism case against an Indian doctor on Thursday as a new report found more cases could fail if police and intelligence agencies don't work more closely.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland appointed a retired judge to examine how authorities handled the case against Mohamed Haneef, who was held in jail for 25 days on the suspicion of being linked to a car bomb plot in London and Glasgow.

"It is essential that we maintain confidence in Australia's counter-terrorism measures," McClelland told reporters.

The review follows a public outcry and criticism from human rights groups over the treatment of Haneef, deported to India after the charges against him were dropped.

Australia's then conservative Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews revoked Haneef's visa to live and work in Australia, saying he failed a character test because he knew people involved in the British bomb plot.

The conservative government lost power last November to the centre-left Labor Party, which promised a full inquiry into the handling of the Haneef case.

The Australian government gradually strengthened anti-terror laws after the Sept. 11, 2001 airliner attacks on the United States, giving police the power to detain suspects for extended periods without charge.

Haneef, who returned to live in Bangalore in India, was held under the laws for 11 days before he was charged with recklessly supporting terrorism.

The case against him centred on a mobile phone SIM card he left with a cousin in Britain when Haneef left to live in Australia. The relative and SIM card were allegedly linked to the London and Glasgow bomb plot.

Haneef, who worked as a doctor in Australia's Queensland state, consistently denied any knowledge of the plot and won a later court challenge to have his visa returned.

Haneef would be invited to give evidence, McClelland said, but the inquiry would go to India if he did not want to return to Australia.

Earlier, a judge found no formal arrangements for police and intelligence agencies to work together or share information in terror investigations.

The review follows the collapse of a case against Sydney student Izhar Ul-Haque, charged with receiving weapons training from the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba, listed as a terrorist group in Australia.

The case failed when a judge ruled police interviews with Ul-Haque were inadmissible and condemned the behaviour of police and intelligence agents as "grossly improper".

The review said more cases could fail unless police and Australia's top domestic intelligence agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), worked together.

Australia has never suffered a peacetime attack on home soil, but more than 90 Australians have been killed in bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali since 2002.

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