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Australia defends tough anti-terror stance over medic

Senior ministers said laws by which a man linked to the failed UK bombings was held for 12 days, were essential to protect its citizens
Reuters | By Victoria Thieberger, Melbourne
UPDATED ON JUL 15, 2007 10:28 AM IST

Senior ministers defended Australia's tough anti-terrorism stance on Sunday, saying laws by which a man linked to the failed UK bombings was held for 12 days before being charged were essential to protect its citizens.

Australian Federal Police charged Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef, 27, on Saturday with recklessly providing support to a terrorist organisation, after holding him since July 2.

Another doctor, Sabeel Ahmed, 26, who is Haneef's cousin, was charged in London on Saturday with failing to disclose information that could have prevented the attacks.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said police and authorities needed strong measures to deal with terrorism.

"We do have tough laws ... the fact is these laws I think are essential if we're going to deal with this problem," Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) television.

"I'm a great believer in individual freedom, so depriving people of freedom is always a worry. But on the other hand, you have to have tough laws if you're going to stop terrorism," he said.

Civil rights groups had protested over Haneef's detention without charge.

Police investigating the case at the weekend said they had had to sift through the equivalent of 36,000 four-drawer filing cabinets of material in electronic form.

Haneef was remanded in custody until Monday when his bail application is to be heard in a Brisbane court.

In a related development, local media reported that police in Perth, the Western Australian state capital, had raided a suburban house in connection with the investigation of links between foreign-trained doctors and the British bomb plots.

Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock declined to comment specifically on the Perth raids.

But he said the Australian Federal Police "have worked assiduously in relation to issues arising from the linkages with the UK bombings, and have put enormous amount of resources and time and effort into very professionally examining any possible links with Australia."

He described the anti-terror laws as "balanced and appropriate".

Ruddock said Haneef would not be extradited to Britain while he was facing charges in Australia. "In relation to extradition, Australia would not normally surrender a person for extradition where there were outstanding matters that had to be dealt with here," Ruddock told Channel Ten's "Meet the Press" programme.

Two car bombs primed to explode in London's theatre and nightclub district were discovered early on June 29. The following day a jeep crashed into the terminal building at Glasgow airport and burst into flames.

All six suspects in Britain are doctors from the Middle East or India.

Haneef is a second cousin to Kafeel Ahmed, one of the suspects in the Glasgow attack who is now in a critical condition with burns.

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