Fresh Stoush Over Haneef Interview

Fresh stoush over Haneef interview

Cosima Marriner, Brisbane
The Age (Melbourne)
August 17, 2007

THE Australian Federal Police is trying to suppress former terrorism suspect Mohamed Haneef's second interview with authorities, although Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews has already selectively quoted from the interview.

The AFP has provided Dr Haneef's lawyers with the transcript of the 12 hours they interrogated the Indian doctor before charging him on July 14 with providing resources to a terrorist organisation.

That charge was dropped when the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions decided there was not a reasonable prospect of conviction.

Dr Haneef's lawyers were given the interview transcript on August 8, the day the doctor's appeal against Mr Andrews' decision to cancel his work visa on character grounds was heard in the Federal Court.

In an accompanying letter, the manager of the AFP's domestic counter-terrorism unit asked Dr Haneef's lawyers not to make the transcript public.

“The AFP is concerned that some of the information revealed to your client during this interview could, if disclosed publicly, have the potential to prejudice ongoing and future police operations; and/or give rise to a claim that a defendant cannot have a fair trial.”

The letter also stated that the transcript had been provided in confidence, and said that if it was made public, Dr Haneef's lawyers were to contact the AFP.

In a reply sent on August 13, Dr Haneef's lawyer, Peter Russo, asked why his client was not to release the transcript, when AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty had authorised Mr Andrews “to release selective portions of a chat room conversation involving our client in a way which was unfair and misleading and had the effect of slandering our client's good name both in Australia and internationally”.

As part of his justification for his decision to cancel Dr Haneef's visa, Mr Andrews revealed parts of an online chat the doctor had with his brother just before he attempted to leave Australia in the wake of the failed car bombings in Britain.

During the conversation, Dr Haneef's brother tells him “nothing has been found out about you”.

In his letter, Mr Russo also pointed out that the charges against Dr Haneef had been dropped, and said that there was nothing in the Crimes Act that prevented Dr Haneef from doing whatever he wished with his record of interview.

“I'm a bit confused as to why they're doing this, or what they hope to achieve,” Mr Russo said yesterday. “They think they're above the law and can do what they like.”

Mr Russo, who was present during the police interview, said that in his opinion nothing was discussed that could compromise any investigation.

The latest stoush comes ahead of the Federal Court ruling on Dr Haneef's visa, which is due next week.

Meanwhile, Dr Haneef's former colleague at the Gold Coast Hospital, Mohammed Asif Ali, was due to fly home to Bangalore last night.

Dr Ali, who was questioned by police about his links with Dr Haneef, was suspended from the hospital after it was discovered that he had falsified his CV.

The acting Director-General of Queensland Health, Andrew Wilson, said Dr Ali would continue to be investigated.