Haneef Inquiry Brings New Pressure For Commissioner

Haneef inquiry brings new pressure for commissioner

Jonathan Pearlman and Connie Levett
The Sydney Morning Herald
February 1, 2008

A JUDICIAL inquiry into the Haneef case will be launched within weeks as the Federal Government draws close to finalising its scope and who will head it.

The inquiry will examine the circumstances of the arrest, charging and deportation of Mohamed Haneef, including the interviews conducted by federal agents, the leaking of an interview transcript, the decision to charge the Indian-born doctor with supporting terrorists, and the revocation of his visa. Labor called for the inquiry before the election and is awaiting advice from the Attorney-General's Department on possible terms of reference and logistical arrangements.

The inquiry is likely to place further pressure on the Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, who is the last of the three government figures at the centre of the saga remaining. The then Commonwealth director of public prosecutions, Damien Bugg, QC, retired last year, while the former immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, was relegated to the Opposition back bench after the election.

Mr Keelty, who is expected to be called to give evidence, this week said he welcomed the inquiry. “For the record, we absolutely welcome such an inquiry and in fact we initiated our own inquiry headed by former justice Sir Laurence Street,” he said.

Mr Keelty has continued to defend the handling of the Haneef case by the federal police, saying the criminal justice process had “upheld well” and would “eventually have dealt with the matter”.

He said it was important to separate immigration and visa matters from the criminal justice process in the Haneef case. “The minister for immigration made the decision he did and the problem was in many people's minds the two issues could not be separated, but they needed to be.”

However, emails between federal police officers on the day of Dr Haneef's bail hearing strongly suggest the two issues were not separate. “The outcome of [the magistrate's] decision on Monday is not predictable,” one email, dated July 14, states. “Contingencies for containing Mr [sic] Haneef and detaining him under the Migration Act if it is the case he is granted bail on Monday, are in place as per arrangements today.”

Stephen Keim, SC, a barrister who defended Dr Haneef, described Mr Keelty's speech this week as “disappointing”.

“It says all these motherhood things but when it comes to the substantive elements of the AFP's handling of Dr Haneef's case he doesn't answer or acknowledge any of the substantive questions,” Mr Keim said. “If you heard Mr Keelty was going to make a major speech, on recent cases, you would expect him to say we got this wrong and this right.”