Haneef lawyers appeal for release of immigration documents

May 9th, 2008 - 4:16 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, May 9 (IANS) Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef’s case has taken yet another turn with the Immigration Department refusing to release documents and his lawyers appealing against it. An application was filed in the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in Brisbane Thursday requesting a review of the Immigration Department’s decision to withhold information on Haneef’s cancelled 457 work visa.

Haneef’s lawyer Rod Hodgson told reporters that documents obtained under Freedom of Information had been heavily edited on several grounds, but could be vital to the current judicial inquiry by former New South Wales Supreme Court justice John Clarke into the handling of Haneef’s bungled terrorism case.

Hodgson told local media: “We’ve asked for documents, we believe are relevant, held by that department. They’ve said `No’. We want an umpire to make a decision on the access to those documents. We want the umpire to put our case at the top of the queue because of the current constraints with the Clarke inquiry.”

Haneef’s lawyers want Clarke to be given “coercive powers” to force witnesses to give evidence. The potential witnesses include former immigration minister Kevin Andrews, who had cancelled Haneef’s work visa despite the terrorism charge against him being dropped, and Australian Federal Police (AFP) Chief Mick Keelty.

“What we have are a number of pieces of the jigsaw puzzle as to what happened last year - there are many pieces missing,” Hodgson told reporters.

The Clarke inquiry, which is due to submit its report by Sep 30, will investigate the series of events from the arrest of Haneef at Brisbane airport on July 2 last year until his release from detention and return to Bangalore on July 29.

The bungled terrorism investigation by Australian police into Haneef’s case cost the tax payer a whopping A$8 million (US$7.2 million). There are nine Australian federal police staff working full time on Haneef’s case.

Haneef was incarcerated in Australia for three weeks last July after being charged with supporting a terrorist organisation by “recklessly” giving his mobile phone SIM card to people planning the botched London and Glasgow bomb attacks. The charges were later dropped and Haneef returned to his family in Bangalore. His work visa was reinstated last December by the new Labour Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

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