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Inquiry finds Haneef case errors

Mohamed Haneef on 60 minutes
Dr Haneef should never have been arrested

An Australian judicial inquiry into the 2007 arrest of Dr Mohamed Haneef has found he should not have been arrested in connection with a UK terror attack.

It also recommends sweeping changes to tough anti-terrorism laws and tighter oversight of police procedures.

But the report finds no political conspiracy behind the bungled arrest, and recommends no punishment of individuals involved.

Dr Haneef was held for almost a month before the charges collapsed.

Details of the report were published by The Australian newspaper ahead of its official release later on Tuesday.

Australia's Attorney-General Robert McClelland said that "errors were made from ground level to the highest level.

"A man was wrongly charged ... A man was detained for longer than was really necessary. These situations are totally unacceptable and should not have occurred," he said.

The inquiry, led by retired New South Wales Supreme Court judge John Clarke QC, followed the arrest in July 2007 of Dr Haneef as he was trying to fly to India to see his wife and new born daughter.

'Mystifying'

Police and prosecutors said his mobile phone SIM card had been found in the burning jeep that smashed into Glasgow airport on 30 June.

That turned out to be wrong information and other inconsistencies soon spelled the collapse of the trial against Dr Haneef.

But the government intervened to cancel his bail and immigration authorities chose to cancel his Australia work visa.

HANEEF CASE TIMELINE
2 July: Arrested in Brisbane
14 July: Charged with providing "reckless support" to terrorism
16 July: Granted bail, but kept in custody after work visa revoked
27 July: Charges dropped
29 July: Returns to India
21 Aug: Court overturns government visa decision

The inquiry has found that Dr Haneef had no prior knowledge or involvement in the 2007 Glasgow or London attacks as claimed by police.

It added that some decisions in the case were "mystifying".

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) had consistently advised the then conservative government there was no credible evidence against Dr Haneef.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) had also told the government the same thing, but later changed its position and backed a prosecutor's call to charge Dr Haneef.

"From a whole-of-government perspective ... no serious attempt was ever made to interrogate ASIO's assessment of Dr Haneef or to reconcile it with the approach pursued by the AFP," the report said.

However the report recommends no action be taken against any individuals in the government, intelligence or police organisations.

"I am still a little bit perplexed by that finding," said Dr Haneef's lawyer Peter Russo following the publication of details of the report.

Revamp vital

Retired judge Clarke says there should be a standing inquiry into anti-terrorism laws and practices.

He recommends clearer guidelines for the laying of terrorism charges against any individual.

He says police and intelligence agencies must cooperate more closely, and that the police should face a parliamentary oversight committee.

He wants intelligence bodies to provide information and advice directly to immigration authorities.

And he says the immigration minister of the time, Kevin Andrews, should have reflected more deeply before ordering the detention and deportation of Dr Haneef.

Activists hold a banner outside the Immigration Department in Sydney, 18 July 2007, calling for the release of Dr Haneef

That the catalogue of errors and controversy arose in an election year prompted concerns that then prime minister John Howard was using the case to bolster his anti-terrorism credentials.

That last charge has been firmly rebuffed by the official inquiry set up by the successor government, led by Labor leader Kevin Rudd.

There was no political conspiracy, the report has found, only a series of mistakes, lack of cooperation between police and intelligence operatives and a lack of "prudence".

Dr Haneef is now living in the United Arab Emirates, and has said his family is still coming to terms with what happened in Australia.

The BBC's Nick Bryant says Dr Haneef's lawyers will be seeking compensation for him.

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SEE ALSO
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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