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'Haneef case won't affect ties with India'

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says it's regrettable that charges were ever laid against Haneef, but he won't apologise to the Indian doc.

world Updated: Jul 27, 2007 20:51 IST

Australia on Friday asserted that its bilateral relationship with India would not be affected by the case of Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef, who was cleared off terror charges after being held in detention for nearly four weeks.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he had spoken to the Indian External and Health Ministers about the issue during the past week and although they were interested in the matter, he did not expect the latest developments to harm ties with New Delhi.

"I think our relationship with India is a good and strong relationship and I don't think this will have any bearing on our relationship with India," Downer said in Perth.

"My view about it is that the Indians have the same sort of common law legal system that we have and they understand the procedures," he said.

Prosecutors withdrew the case against the 27-year-old Haneef, arrested on July 2 and later charged with "recklessly" supporting a terrorist group, at a Brisbane Magistrates' court hearing following a review.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, meanwhile, said it is regrettable that charges were ever laid against Haneef, but he will not be apologising to the Indian doctor.

"I certainly regret that in the course of this investigation the DPP formed a particular view and a later point in time reconsidered that view," he said.

In a related development, Labor's legal affairs spokesman asked the government to immediately set up an external review into the handling of Haneef's case.

"The Howard Government must now establish an external review into the handling of the Mohamed Haneef case by the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions," Senator Joe Ludwig said.

"An immediate review is critical given the importance of sustaining public confidence in the application of Australia's new counter terrorism laws," the Senator said.

Ludwig also asked Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews to explain inconsistencies in his stance on the case today.

"Minister Andrews must now explain the precise reasons underpinning his new position on this matter today, given his continued statements that his decision to cancel Haneef's visa is a separate matter to the court process that has been underway," Senator Ludwig said.

It would be inappropriate, said Senator Ludwig, for Labor to comment on the case further as Haneef's representatives planned to launch an appeal against the visa decision.

"Federal Labor notes the statement of Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty today that the investigation into this matter continues," he said.

First Published: Jul 27, 2007 16:02 IST