No judicial inquiry into Haneef case, says John Howard

By Neena Bhandari, IANS

Sydney : Australian Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out a judicial inquiry into the case of Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef, incarcerated for 25 days before the prosecution dropped charges that he supported the botched British bombings.

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In a reference to opposition Labour leader Kevin Rudd’s demand for an independent judicial inquiry into the case and the need to “have all the facts on the table”, Howard said: “We don’t need a judicial inquiry, that is a politically inspired call by Mr Rudd…”

The prime minister also referred to Australia’s apex court’s ruling Thursday that a terrorism law used to impose an interim control order on Joseph Terrence “Jihad Jack” Thomas — cleared of terrorism charges by a court last year but judged by authorities to still pose a potential terrorist threat — was constitutionally valid.

“I’m very pleased that the High Court has ruled in favour of the constitutionality of those laws and I think that demonstrates that the laws were soundly based,” Howard told Sky News.

While the prime minister spoke out, so did Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Kevin Andrews, who again stood by his decision to revoke the Indian doctor’s work visa.

At a doorstop interview at the Academy of Science in Canberra, Andrews said about the doctor who had been charged with supporting terrorism and had since returned to India: “Well let’s just go back. I mean I think people can still picture in their minds that the vehicle in flames, crashing into the airport at Glasgow. And nobody has or can deny what is obviously an association between that.”

Kafeel Ahmed, a second cousin of Haneef, was arrested after the botched burning jeep attack at the Glasgow Airport June 30 and died in a Scotland hospital Thursday. Haneef, a Gold Coast hospital registrar, was charged with supporting a terrorist organisation by “recklessly” giving his mobile phone SIM card to people planning the British bomb attacks, but was cleared by the prosecution.

Saying that the matter is within the purview of the security authorities and the police, Andrews underlined his responsibility as an immigration minister saying: “And I make no apology on behalf of the Australian people for saying that if we don’t believe that the conditions are being upheld, we have a responsibility and indeed a right to remove someone from Australia.

“That is my responsibility and I think the Australian people are fully supportive of that approach.”

Andrews, who has got a lot of flak for his decision to revoke the 27-year-old doctor’s 457 work visa hours after he was granted bail by the Brisbane magistrate, reiterated: “The matter before me was whether or not this person, who is conditionally in Australia, has met the requirements for remaining in Australia and I came to the conclusion, based on evidence before me, that he hadn’t and that’s why I took my decision.”

Haneef’s lawyer Peter Russo has lodged an appeal against the immigration minister’s decision to revoke Haneef’s visa. It is scheduled for hearing in the Brisbane Federal Court Aug 8.

Regarding the visa status of the second Indian doctor Muhammad Asif Ali, who was questioned in the Haneef case, the minister said the immigration department had written to Queensland authorities asking to be updated about any inquiries that they make.

“As to any other matters, it would be a case for, as in the situation with Dr Haneef, for the Federal Police to put information before me which would go to the question of whether I exercised my discretion.”

Opposition Labour Party Leader Kevin Rudd, who has been demanding a full independent judicial inquiry, has also refused to comment on whether he would reissue a visa to Haneef if voted to power in the coming federal election.

Rudd had told Sky News: “I’ve said repeatedly that what we need now is a independent judicial inquiry. Why? Because every day a new piece of information seems to slip out from somewhere and we don’t know whether it’s true or not. We need to have all the facts on the table, every one of them. We believe a judicial inquiry is the best way to go. We also want to make sure that any ongoing investigations are not compromised.”