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10,000 Australians sign petition supporting Haneef

By Neena Bhandari, IANS

Sydney : In less than a day, 10,000 Australians have signed an online petition calling for the reinstatement of Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef's visa and demanding counter-terrorism responses to genuine threats, not imagined ones.

The online petition initiated by GetUp, an independent movement to build a progressive Australia and bring participation back into Australian democracy, expresses outrage at the twists and turns that have turned the Haneef case into an absolute farce.

GetUp's campaign coordinator Ed Coper said: "The revocation of Haneef's visa now appears to be clearly motivated by political imperatives, not security ones. Now that criminal charges have been dropped, the government must instil confidence in the minds of the Australian people by reinstating Haneef's visa.

"Once again the Australian community has rejected these attempts to politicise matters that are the rightful domain of the legal system. The bungling has weakened our confidence in our security agencies' ability to combat legitimate threats, and it has weakened our confidence in the government not to blur the lines between politics, justice and national security."

The petition reads: "We expect you to protect us from terrorism, but demand you do so in a way that maintains the integrity of our legal system, due process, and our valued rights and freedoms. We demand a trusted counter-terrorism system that responds to legitimate threats, not imagined or political ones."

Twenty-five days after he was arrested in connection with the failed British bombings, the Australian government Friday dropped all charges against Haneef with the police admitting that there were irregularities and there was no prospect of conviction.

Haneef is likely to be released by afternoon and stay under detention in his Gold Coast home. He is still in solitary confinement in Brisbane's high security Wolston Correctional Centre, where he has been held since July 18 on charges of supporting a terrorist organisation by "recklessly" giving his mobile phone SIM card to people planning the British bomb attacks.

GetUp's campaign is to let politicians from all parties know that Australians are tired of the politics of fear and calls on them to not sacrifice the "integrity of our society in the name of 'national security'.

"The legitimate role of government agencies to protect us from terrorism has been grossly undermined by such apparent incompetence," Cooper added.