Calls for royal commission into Haneef debacle

September 6, 2008

On August 29, Dr Mohamed Haneef was officially declared"no longer a person of interest" — after more than 12 months of "investigations" that included detention without charge, the then-federal Howard government revoking his visa, and continual insinuations of "support for terrorism", at a total cost of over $8.5 million.

Lawyers and civil libertarians are calling for a royal commission into Haneef's arrest, detention and investigation.

Haneef was arrested on July 2, 2007, and was held without charge under new "anti-terrorism" legislation for two weeks. Haneef won his bail application with the magistrate acknowledging the weakness of the case against him — which centred largely on a SIM card he'd given his cousin. Then-immigration minister Kevin Andrews responded to the court decision by immediately revoking Haneef's work visa on "character grounds", keeping him in detention (still without charge) for a further two weeks.

The decision to revoke the visa was supported by then-ALP immigration spokesperson Tony Burke.

On July 27, 2007, all charges against Haneef were dropped, yet the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and federal government continued to "investigate" him.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman said that the AFP's announcement shows "the inadequacy of the current Haneef Inquiry which is not a full blown properly constituted royal commission", according to the August 30 Sydney Morning Herald.

O'Gorman argues that a royal commission could broaden an inquiry into the political nature of Haneef's arrest and detention, including examining whether resources were used for a genuine criminal inquiry, or for a political cover-up. He criticised the Rudd government for setting up a "mickey mouse inquiry", which is "not sitting in public [and] can't force the AFP ... to produce witnesses or produce documents".

Rodney Hodgson, who is representing Haneef at the inquiry, is also demanding Rudd expand it. In an article in the August 29 Australian, Hodgson asks a number of unanswered questions regarding the AFP and government.

"Why didn't the AFP [reveal] ... that Haneef had tried to contact London police involved in the investigation into the attacks in Britain at least four times on the day he was arrested? It's a serious thing to leave out relevant matters which suggest the innocence of a suspect."

Hodgson also questioned why the AFP did not reveal the existence of an email that shows that the cousin who gave Haneef his SIM card had no foreknowledge of the attacks in London and Glasgow. He pointed to the AFP falsely telling the courts the SIM card was found in a burning jeep involved in that attacks.

Haneef's Brisbane-based lawyer Peter Russo has confirmed his client will pursue compensation once the inquiry's findings are handed to the federal government by September 30. The inquiry will hold its first public forum on September 22 in Sydney, to discuss Australia's terror and immigration laws.

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