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Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Howard stands firm over Haneef
Mohammed Haneef on 60 minutes
Dr Haneef says he is delighted to be home
Australia's prime minister has refused to apologise to Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef, who was held for a month before being cleared of terrorism charges.

John Howard defended his immigration minister's decision to revoke Dr Haneef's visa, and rebuffed opposition calls for an inquiry into the case.

Dr Haneef has returned to India after being cleared of charges relating to the UK failed car bomb attacks in June.

The handling of the case was criticised by both legal and civil rights groups.

Australian police were accused of taking too long to charge Dr Haneef under new anti-terror laws, and some prosecution evidence presented in court was later found to have been wrong.

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews was also fiercely criticised for revoking Dr Haneef's visa - which effectively kept him in detention - hours after a magistrate's court had granted bail.

'Safe than sorry'

Mr Howard told reporters that "Australia will not be apologising to Dr Haneef".

"Dr Haneef was not victimised and Australia's international reputation has not been harmed by this 'mis-start' to its new anti-terrorism laws," he said.

It's not in my nature to ever support or involve in such activities at all
Mohamed Haneef

He said he supported Mr Andrews' handling of the matter, saying: "When you're dealing with terrorism, it's better to be safe than to be sorry."

"It's better to have laws that enable somebody to be taken into detention and questioned where there is a reasonable suspicion," he added.

Mr Howard also backed the police, saying it was "easy to take pot shots at the police, but they are our principal line of defence against terrorism".

Kevin Andrews again defended his decision to cancel the visa, saying the police evidence he had been provided with meant the doctor's visa should be denied on "character grounds".

Opposition leader Kevin Rudd has called for an independent judicial inquiry into the case, saying questions were still "hanging in the air" over Mr Andrews' decision.

Mohamed Haneef was freed from custody on Friday after a charge of "reckless support" for terrorism was dropped.

He flew back to India on Saturday, from where he spoke of his relief at his release and insisted upon his innocence.

"It's not in my nature to ever support or involve in such activities at all," he told a news channel when asked if he had ever been a supporter of a terrorist organisation.

"[I] never imagined even in my remotest corner of my brain that I would be labelled with such a defaming thing."

SIM card

Dr Haneef was on the staff at Gold Coast Hospital in Queensland when he was arrested at Brisbane airport on 2 July.

Australian police said they were acting on a tip-off from British police and Dr Haneef had been carrying a one-way ticket back to India.

John Howard (file photo)
John Howard defends his government's handling of the case

He was held for 12 days under Australia's controversial new anti-terror laws before being charged.

The case hinged on a mobile phone SIM card that Dr Haneef had given his second cousin Sabeel Ahmed before he left Britain for his post in Australia last year.

Prosecutors said the SIM card was found in the burning car that crashed into Glasgow airport on 30 June.

It later emerged that the card had actually been in the possession of Sabeel Ahmed in Liverpool, some 300km (185 miles) from Glasgow.

Sabeel Ahmed has been charged with withholding information over the alleged attacks. His older brother, Kafeel, remains under police guard in a British hospital suffering from severe burns after allegedly driving the explosives-laden jeep into Glasgow airport.

Two days before the Glasgow attack, two cars containing petrol, gas cylinders and nails were discovered in central London.

Dr Haneef speaks at a press conference

Why the Haneef case disintegrated
27 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Haneef terrorism charges dropped
27 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia's Indian doctors feel the heat
24 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Prosecutor to review Haneef case
25 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia terror laws under scrutiny
19 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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