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Charges dropped, Haneef set free

Australian cops concede they have nothing on the doctor, report David McMahon and BR Srikanth.

world Updated: Jul 28, 2007 03:39 IST

Firdous Arshiya wants her husband's honour restored now that he has won the other, bigger battle to prove he is not a terrorist. In a dramatic turn of events, Australia conceded on Friday it had absolutely nothing on Dr Mohammed Haneef.

Australian immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, said the Bangalore doctor would be released from custody and held in residential detention pending a decision on his visa, which has been cancelled.

For Firdous, it's her husband's honour now. "We are waiting for a bridging visa because I don't want him to get deported. I want him to come back in a regular manner," she said, speaking to reporters at her parent's home in Bangalore.

The Indian external affairs ministry has also sought a fresh visa for Haneef in a statement which also welcomed the dropping of charges against him.

Firdous and Haneef have a daughter, Haniya, who hasn't seen her father yet. Haneef was arrested on July 2 at Brisbane airport before he was to board a flight to India. He was charged 12 days later with providing support to a terrorist organisation. He had given his mobile-phone SIM card to a relative later charged over the failed London terror attacks.

Shortly after dusk, a blue van, one of a convoy of three vehicles, carried Haneef to freedom from the Wolston Correctional Centre in Brisbane's south-west. He was accompanied by immigration officials.

Haneef's solicitor, Peter Russo, said he had "no idea" where his client was being taken. Firdous, however, said just as he was leaving, Haneef was informed that he could go back to his job at the Gold Coast Hospital in Southport, where he worked before he was arrested. She believed he was likely to say 'thanks, but no thanks'.

Earlier on Friday, Brisbane Magistrates Court proceedings against Haneef, 27, were halted after public prosecutor Damian Bugg conceded there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction on the available evidence.

Bugg, who personally reviewed the evidence against Haneef after a series of bungles by prosecutors and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), said the episode was disappointing.

The public prosecutor told the Brisbane court that the first error, in the case made against Haneef, related to the location of the SIM card, which was first claimed to have been found in a burning jeep used in the Glasgow terror attack. It was later revealed that the SIM card had been obtained from Haneef's cousin in Liverpool, over 300 km away.

The second error related to where Haneef was living in the UK, "and was based on incorrect material provided by the AFP", Bugg said in a statement.

AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty said the AFP would continue to investigate any potential Australian links to the failed UK terror attacks. "It will continue until we satisfy ourselves that the matter is finalised as far as the Australian connection is concerned, and as far as the outstanding UK inquiries are conducted," he said.

(With additional reporting by Madhur Singh in Delhi)

First Published: Jul 27, 2007 10:48 IST