Australian police are still at it on Haneef case

April 4th, 2008 - 10:36 am ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, April 4 (IANS) As unbelievable and unnecessary it may be, but eight months after Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef has returned home, there are still nine Australian federal police staff working full time on his bungled case. The investigation cost, since his arrest in July last year, is nearing a whopping Australian $8 million ($7.2 million).

A judicial inquiry to probe the handling of the failed terrorism case against the former Gold Coast registrar is expected to start this month.

According to a report in the Fairfax newspapers, Australian Federal Police (AFP) had nine members working on the Haneef matter full time, while five others provided assistance to the investigation “periodically”.

The 27-year-old was charged with recklessly providing support to a terrorist organisation by giving his mobile phone SIM card to his cousin Sabeel Ahmed, one of the men accused in the botched British bomb attacks.

Former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews cancelled his work visa just hours after a magistrate granted him bail on July 16, 2007, ensuring his continued incarceration. The charges against Haneef were dropped and the former Gold Coast registrar returned home to Bangalore last year.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans had reinstated his visa in December 2007 after the Labour government came to power.

The independent inquiry into what went wrong in his case will be carried out by former New South Wales Supreme Court Justice John Clarke, who is said to have rejected entreaties from Haneef’s lawyers to widen his powers, which do not allow him to subpoena witnesses or documents.

Leading law firm, Maurice Blackburn, will be acting on Haneef’s behalf during the judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his arrest and detention last year.

“It’s extraordinary that, after more than A$7.5 million ($6.83 million) of taxpayers’ money and many months after the director of publicprosecutions said he had no case to answer, my client is still a suspect,” Maurice Blackburn Partner Rod Hodgson told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“If there was anything to be found, it would have been found a long time ago. I question their motives when they are about to face an inquiry. It’s a smokescreen to avoid the scrutiny that the AFP should be subjected to,” Hodgson told the newspaper.

A federal police spokesman told the newspaper: “The resources allocated to the investigation are appropriate and proportional to the work being carried out.”

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