Haneef not to be extradited to Britain: official

By Neena Bhandari, IANS

Sydney : The legal team representing Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef, charged in connection with the failed UK bomb plot, claim to have made some headway in seeking bail for their client even as Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said Haneef will not be extradited to Britain.

Support TwoCircles

Ruddock told Channel Ten Sunday: “In relation to extradition, Australia would not normally surrender a person for extradition where there were outstanding matters that had to be dealt with here.”

Haneef was arrested by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) on July 2 at Brisbane International Airport just before flying to India on a one-way ticket. He has been in the Brisbane Watch House for the past two weeks and Saturday he was charged under the Australian counter-terrorism laws with supporting a terrorist organisation by “recklessly” giving his mobile phone SIM card to people planning the UK bomb attacks.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Haneef’s barrister Stephen Keim has argued the extremely weak case against his client was grounds enough to justify his release.

Haneef’s lawyer, Peter Russo has told the ABC: “He’s (Haneef) a very patient sort of person as I’ve been saying from day one. He understands that all we can really do for now is wait.”

The 27-year-old registrar, who was working in the Gold Coast hospital until his arrest, showed little emotion during the bail application hearing on Saturday, when Brisbane Magistrate Jacqui Payne adjourned the hearing to Monday morning because of the complexity of the case and ordered Haneef remain in custody until July 16.

Haneef’s younger brother, Mohammed Shoaib, has told the ABC that his family had full faith in his brother’s innocence. “He (Haneef) has not handed it (the SIM card) to any unknown person, he has handed it to a known person, because there was free talk-time on the card and he didn’t want to waste that.”

Security has been catapulted as one of the main poll issues this Australian Federal election year. Ruddock has told Channel Ten: “Matters are considered by police on the basis of evidence available and those matters are independently assessed by the Director of Public Prosecutions. So these are not political issues, they are issues dealt with as part of the criminal justice system.”

He further told Channel Ten, “I think the laws have been balanced and appropriate, and in large, measure appropriate for the risks that we face. .. what I can say is the Australian Federal Police have worked assiduously in relation to issues arising from the linkages with the UK bombings, and have put enormous amount of resources and time and effort into very professionally examining any possible links with Australia.”

Commenting on Haneef’s detention, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has also argued that while he was a “great believer” in individual freedom, it had to be balanced against national security. He told the ABC: “We do have tough laws. Depriving people of freedom is always a worry but on the other hand we have to have tough laws if we are going to stop terrorism. The fact is, these laws are essential if we are going to deal with these problems.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has completed their search of a foreign doctor’s house in Perth, understood to be related to the investigation into links between some overseas trained doctors and terrorism.

The AFP is examining the items seized overnight from the suburban Perth home of the foreign doctor’s house. On July 6, the AFP had carried out searches at Royal Perth Hospital and Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital and questioned five Indian doctors – four in Western Australia and one in Sydney as part of the investigations into the UK terrorism link.

All the doctors were later allowed to go free. Mobile phones and laptop computers containing about 31,000 separate documents were seized for further examination.