Australia apologises to Indian-origin doctor

December 23rd, 2010 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, Dec 23 (IANS) The Australian government Thursday issued a formal apology to Indian-origin doctor Mohamed Haneef, who was wrongly detained on terrorism-related charges three years ago, expressing the hope that he can now move on with his life.Haneef received a substantial compensation payout from the government this week for his detention in July 2007.

“The AFP (Australian Federal Police) acknowledges that it was mistaken and that Dr. Haneef was innocent of the offence of which he was suspected,” the AAP quoted the government statement.

“The commonwealth apologises and hopes that the compensation to be paid to Dr. Haneef will mark the end of an unfortunate chapter and allow Dr. Haneef to move forward with his life and career.”

The government also conceded that arresting, charging, detaining and eventually cancelling Haneef’s visa created “serious consequences for him and his family”.

The statement, which was released by the attorney-general’s department Wednesday, agrees that the terms of the settlement remain secret.

Haneef was taken into custody and charged with giving support to a terrorist organisation when his mobile phone SIM card was linked to an attack in Britain in 2007.

The charges were later dropped as prosecutors admitted bungling the case, and an independent inquiry cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Haneef and his lawyers completed two days of talks in Brisbane with Australian government officials Tuesday.

Haneef’s lawyer Rod Hodgson said the apology reaffirmed his client’s innocence and follows the resolution of the doctor’s compensation claim earlier this week.

“We congratulate the government for recognising an injustice done on the watch of the previous government and for this public apology and declaration of innocence,” Hodgson was quoted as saying. “The apology means a lot to our client.”

Hodgson said the Australian people would form their own judgments about former immigration minister Kevin Andrews’ refusal to offer his own apology.

“On one side we have ASIO, the Queensland Police Service, the findings of the Clarke Inquiry, the AFP and the current Australian government all prepared to declare that Dr Haneef is innocent,” Hodgson said.

He said Haneef’s family remained in Brisbane after the conclusion of compensation talks this week.

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