Indian Doctor Free To Return To Australia

Indian Doctor Free to Return to Australia

December 21, 2007

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A former suspect in failed British terror attacks that gained worldwide attention is free to return to Australia after a court on Friday dismissed the government's bid to cancel his visa.

The Federal Court's decision was a further victory for Dr. Mohamad Haneef, who spent 12 days in jail in July and was forced to leave Australia before authorities decided they had no evidence against him in a case that prompted accusations of political scaremongering.

A three-judge panel of the Australian Federal Court on Friday dismissed an appeal by the federal government against a judge's earlier decision to reinstate a work visa granted to Haneef last year.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans, whose government was elected last month, confirmed that he would not use his power to cancel the work visa which is valid until 2010.

''Dr. Haneef is free to return to Australia and to exercise his rights under the visa,'' Evan told reporters.

Former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews revoked Haneef's visa saying he was not of good character immediately after the doctor was cleared of involvement in failed terrorist attacks allegedly involving relatives in London and Scotland in June.

Andrews said Friday the new government should appeal the court ruling in Australia's High Court, the paramount judicial body.

Haneef, 27, has said he is pursing the case to clear his name, and that he may choose not to return to Australia.

Australian Federal Police arrested Haneef at Brisbane International Airport in Queensland on July 2 as he attempted to board a one-way flight to India, just days after one of his cousins allegedly drove an explosive-laden jeep into Glasgow airport in a suspected terrorist attack.

The attack followed the foiling by authorities of two failed suspected car bomb attacks in London.

Haneef was held without charge for 12 days in Australia under controversial anti-terror laws, before police eventually charged him with providing support to a terrorist organization.

The charge was based on Haneef giving his mobile phone SIM card to his cousin Sabeel Ahmed, one of the men accused of the attempted bomb attacks.

The charge was dropped two weeks later after prosecutors found there was no reasonable prospect of securing a conviction, and after it was revealed their claim that Haneef's SIM card was found in the Glasgow attack vehicle was wrong.

Civil liberties groups accused the government of then Prime Minister John Howard of exaggerating the threat Haneef allegedly posed because it faced a tough election fight, and because Howard was perceived to be strong on the issue of security.