Haneefs lawyers ensured turn in the wheels of Australian justice

January 19th, 2008 - 1:33 pm ICT by admin  

Melbourne, Jan.19 (ANI): In the case of Dr Haneef, who was caring for oncology patients at Brisbanes Gold Coast Hospital when he was arrested on a terrorism charge in July last year, a dogged, determined effort by his defence lawyers — Peter Russo and Stephen Keim — helped make it obvious that the evidence against Haneef was paper-thin.
According to an editorial in The Australian, today’s award to Dr. Haneef is testimony to his lawyers’ effectiveness. The other nominees, including Kevin Rudd, also had an extraordinary last year by winning elections after only 11 months as an opposition leader.
According to the paper, the authorities acted responsibly in detaining Haneef initially and treating him with caution.
Twelve months earlier, he had given his mobile phone SIM card, with unused credit, to a second cousin in Britain, Sabeel Ahmed. Ahmed’s brother, Kafeel, helped to launch and died in the British terror attacks in late June. And Dr Haneef admitted that as well as wanting to see his wife and newborn daughter, he was leaving Australia on July 2 on a one-way ticket because his relatives were worried he would be unjustly linked to his relative’s terror attacks.
As the legal processes unfolded, however, it became clear that authorities were grasping at straws. After Brisbane magistrate Jacqui Payne bailed the doctor, the prudent course would have been to allow Dr Haneef to go about his work while maintaining 24-hour surveillance as a sensible precaution. But former immigration minister Kevin Andrews revoked Dr Haneef’s visa on “character” grounds. In itself, this was not unusual - hundreds of such visas are cancelled every year and Andrews was acting in accordance with wide discretionary powers at his disposal.
The timing was a problem, however. In acting after the court case collapsed, the minister was dogged by perceptions that he was pursuing an innocent man and left himself open to claims that he was attempting to boost the Howard government’s security credentials for political considerations.
The fact that the Rudd Government has ruled out an appeal against last month’s Federal Court decision to reinstate Dr Haneef’s visa, after a review by the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, further suggests that Russo and Keim were correct in asserting the lack of evidence against their client.
The Australian’s Hedley Thomas, who won Australia’s most prestigious journalism award, the Gold Walkley, for his work, brought the matter to public attention after Keim gave him a full transcript of Dr Haneef’s first police interview.
Thomas was free to report the transcript fully, regardless of whether the facts were favourable to Dr Haneef or not. The public interest was well served by Keim’s courage in ensuring the facts were brought into the open, although his action earned the wrath of former prime minister John Howard, his ministers and AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty.
Russo and Keim played a vital role in ensuring that the legal system’s checks and balances allowed justice to be done, despite bungling by authorities. The fact that such checks and balances worked is something to celebrate, the paper concludes. (ANI)

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