Australia disgraced by Haneef affair – PM Howard arrogant and unjust as usual

31 July, 2007

The Australian government continues to embarass itself in the Mohamed Haneef affair. After he was kept in jail for a month due to a simcard which turned out not to be his, and after Australian Federal Police tampered with evidence by writing suspects’ names in Haneef’s diary and then grilling him over them, and after his visa was revoked and he was sent to a detention centre in order to avoid releasing him as legally required – after all that, and after he was issued a deportation order* despite being released from custody on complete lack of evidence, and had his leaving the country described as suspicious by the very man who had issued the deportation order (Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews) – after all that too, and after Haneef has been quite restrained and reasonable in his criticism of his treatment, and being responded to with remarkable contempt by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who said, “What do you expect them [police and prosecutors] to do, fall on the ground and grovel – eat dirt? I mean, get real.” (And he’s supposed to be his country’s chief diplomat!)

After all that, Kevin Andrews has tried to deflect criticism by refering to secret information which would reveal the basis of the government and police’s strange behaviour. He says he cannot reveal the information as this would jeopardise an ongoing anti-terrorism investigation. Strangely, the information is strong enough to keep a man in jail for a month and then deport him with the slur of “terrorist”, but the information is not strong enough to bring Haneef to trial on even one minor charge, which we can be sure the government would have been eager to do. Andrews says, “This process has been overseen by the judiciary at every step”, and “the director of public prosecutions personally [reviewed] the whole case”. Well, yes, that’s true – in the light of public scandal due to incompetence of police and abuse of power and rights by prosecutors and officials, he stepped in, despite I am sure great opposition from the above-mentioned honoraries, and his conclusion was that Haneef should be released immediately. His conclusion implicitly says that the handling of the whole thing has been unjust, unconsidered and bordering on illegal. As with the deportation order, Andrews shamelessly twists events to support his own empty argument.

The only reasonable conclusion from all the public evidence, including the government’s and police’s behaviour, is that there is no evidence against Haneef. He was imprisoned and questioned for a month. All his property was thoroughly searched (unless this is another area in which the police botched the job). Detectives and evidence were supposedly available from Britain, from whence the original accusations came. The publicly-known charged were shown to be false. The secret evidence which the government hold over Haneef’s head (and ours) is not strong enough to hold him, even on a temporary or trumped-up charge.

Andrews says he has received advice not to release the secret evidence. Who has advised him? The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty – the man in charge of the botched operation that embarassed the country and could not produce one usable piece of evidence against Haneef, despite all the time and resources available. Keelty wants Andrews to protect his back with a “cover-up”, and Andrews is only to glad to protect himself as well – the mysterious black box of “secret evidence” apparently can justify any appalling behaviour. As with the deportation order, Andrews has shown himself to be dishonest and shifty.

Of course, Kevin Andrews received the Prime Minister’s full support. “I do know that the charge of [recklessly] assisting was not proceeded with, but as to his other antecedents, I don’t know,” said John Howard. “We are living in a new world and this idea that you can have absolute perfection in fighting terrorism, which is a global threat, is unrealistic. I would rather that be the case than somebody who is a real threat to this country slip through because we’re not tough enough. It is always better to be safe than sorry.” Of course, Haneef has been allowed to “slip through”, because of a lack of evidence.

Remember, the original charge against Mohamed Haneef was supporting a terrorist organisation by giving a phone SIM card to a cousin. This in itself is a laughable accusation, a clutch at straws – “shaking the tree”, in intelligence terms, in the hope of getting further information. None was forthcoming; the tree was bare. Andrews says the cancellation of the visa was based on a “reasonable suspicion” that Dr Haneef had an association with people engaged in terrorist activities. “People” presumably means Haneef’s cousin. So – he is being persecuted on grounds of a “reasonable suspicion” of being related to his cousin.

Sadly, in light of events in the United States, and given Prime Minister John Howard’s constant urge to mimic his conservative counterparts there, we can be sure that this is not the end. Further and worse abuses of the law, the public, and innocent people, are inevitable.

SMH: Andrews keeps dossier under wraps

SMH: He may still be a terrorist, says PM

Guardian: Australia drops terror charge against Haneef

Guardian: Australia drops case against alleged bomb plot doctor

*Not technically a deportation order, but as he was released from detention to find his visa would not be reactivated (on orders of Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews), he was in the position of having to leave before he was taken back to detention as an illegal alien.

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