Howard rejects Haneef’s request for ‘honorary citizenship’


Sydney : Prime Minister John Howard has rejected Mohamed Haneef’s call to make him an honorary Australian, saying there is no such category and it will not be appropriate for the Indian doctor anyway.

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Haneef, who returned to India a week ago after a terrorism charge against him was dropped, told Fairfax newspapers he would like to ask Howard for “honorary citizenship of Australia” because he is a good doctor.

“There is no case for that to occur and … I’m not sure that we have honorary Australians anyway, but he wouldn’t be the sort of person you’d make an honorary Australian,” Howard told a local TV channel.

Howard said there was the Order of Australia for non-Australians who had given conspicuous service to the country.

“We give them to a whole range of people from a whole variety of countries, but I’m not aware that there is such a status of honorary Australian,” he said.

Haneef’s solicitor Peter Russo has returned to Australia from India ahead of Wednesday’s appeal against Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews’ decision to cancel the Indian’s work visa.

He said Haneef’s family wanted compensation for lost income and damage to his reputation. But he said that his client had not as yet asked him to pursue civil actions against the Australian government.

Haneef was charged with providing “reckless support” to a terrorist organisation for giving his SIM card to his cousin Sabeel Ahmed when he left Britain for Australia last year.

Ahmed is one of the men charged with the failed terror plots in London and Glasgow in June and is the brother of Kafeel Ahmed, the alleged driver of the flaming jeep that crashed into Glasgow Airport.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has meanwhile asserted that he would track down “every lead and piece of evidence” against Haneef.

But the Indian doctor said he was confident he won’t be charged again with terrorism offences.

Haneef told the Sydney Morning Herald that the police had already “got everything out of me, everything. What else could they get on me?”

He also said that he would like to return to Australia and complete his medical training and meet the prime minister. “I would ask for honorary citizenship of Australia… Because I’m a good doctor.”

Asserting his innocence, he said the events of the past month had taught him a lesson that in this age of terror he wouldn’t give anyone his mobile phone SIM card for anything again.

Russo told ABC Radio: “You’ve got to understand the Indians’ mentality – the mentality is to sue.

“I didn’t realise that until I got over there and started talking to some of the relatives. But he (Haneef) specifically hasn’t asked me to sue.”

Haneef was arrested at Brisbane International Airport, just before flying to India July 2. He was in custody for 25 days.

His visa was cancelled hours after he was granted bail by a Brisbane magistrate on the grounds that he had failed a “character test” through his association with his second cousins Kafeel and Sabeel Ahmed in Britain.