, by SYED TAUSIEF AUSAF
Indian doctor Mohammad Haneef’s ordeal has made it clear that all is not hunky dory with the Australian anti-terror laws and judicial system. It is shocking to note that the prosecution used false information and confidently lied to make a case against Haneef.
Prosecutors had claimed that the doctor’s SIM card had been found in the burning car that crashed into Glasgow international airport on June 30. But it later emerged the card had actually been found in a flat in Liverpool, some 300km from Glasgow, where his cousin lived.
The Aussie police claimed Haneef offered no explanation of why he tried to leave Brisbane on a one-way ticket to India. A transcript of his first police interview, leaked to the Press by his defence team, showed he did. He wanted to see his wife, who had just given birth to their child.
The Australian Premier, in neck and neck competition with London to please George Bush, has egg on his face today. John Howard’s July 13 statement that he was happy with Haneef’s detention and that his government felt comfortable treating terrorism suspects more harshly than others is still fresh in minds.
Suddenly the tune has changed. Now he is saying that the responsibility for the bungle lies squarely with the Australian Federal Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions. Howard’s government was so keen on having Haneef imprisoned that it even thwarted a magisterial decision to allow him back into the community.
Although Haneef has returned home, thanks to the pressure from India and Australia’s own citizens, he will be unable to return to work unless his visa, revoked for "giving reckless support to terrorism", is reinstated. His profile would make it impossible for him to move freely in the community.
His ill-advised arrest coupled with the raid on his residence put him in deep shock. The news came to his family in India as a bolt from the blue. His wife remained on tenterhooks for weeks. It was heartbreaking to see trauma, anguish and helplessness of Haneef’s kin in Bangalore. And the Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has refused to apologise to the medic.
Arrogance and shamelessness of this level perhaps can only be found Down Under. It was Ruddock who last week blasted lawyers for pointing out serious flaws in Haneef’s case, calling their statements "regrettable."
Hats off to Haneef’s folks who have decided not to seek an apology from Canberra for the shameful crime. Ideally they should have hired the top lawyer in Australia and dragged into court everyone responsible for Haneef’s agony. Ruddock should have been sued for millions of dollars for the pain he caused to so many people.
The least Howard can do to salvage his credibility (if any) is to set some heads rolling, give Haneef his visa back, restore his honour, compensate him for the tragedy and offer a public apology to his family and country. Calls to set up an external review into the (mis)handling of Haneef’s case must not fall on deaf ears, if Howard is really interested in his political survival.
And if Howard chooses not to do that, it will turn people’s suspicion into belief that he used Haneef’s nightmare to get some political mileage. Elections are due this year in Australia. With the Howard government heading south on popularity graphs, it is hardly surprising that his cronies would have used the case to focus voters’ attention on national security. Raising the spectre of terror has always helped Howard.
His government was already in the dock over its approval of ex-Gitmo detainee David Hicks’ unfair trial and sentencing before the US military commission. The country’s top legal body has termed it shameful and politically motivated and has drawn parallels between the cases of Hicks and Haneef.
Howard has Tony syndrome. He, like the former British premier, loves to blur the thin line between "war on terror" and "state terrorism".