Friday, 4 April 2008

Greens concerned by ongoing Haneef investigation

The Federal Government has moved to allay concerns that an ongoing police investigation into Dr Mohammed Haneef may complicate an upcoming inquiry into the handling of his case.

The Australia Federal Police (AFP) has confirmed nine full-time staff are continuing investigations into Dr Haneef despite terrorism related charges against him being dropped eight months ago.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle says the AFP should explain why the investigation is continuing and she is concerned that it has the potential to make things difficult for the Clark Inquiry into Dr Haneef's case.

"That's why I think we need some more information about what these nine individuals are continuing to do in relation to Dr Haneef," she said.

"We'll be asking the them to expand on those answers for us."

A spokesman for the Federal Attorney-General says the inquiry is the most appropriate way to learn the lessons of the Haneef case and will protect national security information, ongoing operations and upcoming overseas trials.


Haneef: nine AFP staff still on his tail
The cost of the investigation into Dr Haneef's alleged links to a British terrorist cell is already approaching $8 million. John Clarke, QC, has rebuffed entreaties from Dr Haneef's lawyers to widen his powers, which do not allow him to subpoena witnesses or documents.

Responding to a question on notice in Parliament, the Australian Federal Police said it had nine members working on the Haneef matter full-time, while five others provided assistance to the investigation "periodically".

That is roughly equivalent to the police resources devoted to the average murder case where charges are pending or have been laid.

"It's extraordinary that, after more than $7.5 million of taxpayers' money and many months after the [Director of Public Prosecutions] said he had no case to answer, my client is still a suspect," said Dr Haneef's lawyer, Rod Hodgson.

"I question their motives when they are about to face an inquiry.

It's a smokescreen to avoid the scrutiny that the AFP should be subjected to."

A federal police spokesman said yesterday: "The resources allocated to the investigation are appropriate and proportional to the work being carried out."

He would not comment further, but it is understood that much of the work involves liaising with authorities in Britain and India.

Mr Hodgson said the investigation meant Dr Haneef was less likely to come to Australia to give evidence to the inquiry, although he would co-operate fully.

Mr Hodgson said he had received a letter from Mr Clarke yesterday rejecting calls to expand the powers of his inquiry. Besides being unable to compel witnesses or subpoena documents, the inquiry cannot protect anyone who appears from adverse consequences - such as being demoted - if they give evidence that may reveal the wrongdoing of superiors or colleagues.

The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, has said he would consider giving the inquiry powers akin to those of a royal commission if Mr Clarke asked for them.

Haneef's lawyer says inquiry is weak
The inquiry into Australian authorities' handling of the Mohamed Haneef case needs stronger powers to avoid becoming a "toothless tiger", the former terror suspect's lawyer says. Solicitor Peter Russo said the upcoming inquiry, headed by former NSW Supreme Court judge John Clarke, needed "coercive powers" to force reluctant witnesses to testify. He said the coercive powers would ensure all relevant documentary evidence is produced, and require relevant witnesses to attend and answer all questions which are properly within the terms of reference. "Without such powers, the inquiry may very well be a toothless tiger," Mr Russo said in an article for a News Limited online weblog.

Public Meeting - Putting the Terror Laws on Trial
Presented by Civil Rights Defence and Amnesty International Australia.

Tuesday April 15, 7pm, Kaleide Theatre, RMIT, Swanston St, City.

In the past five years Australia's anti-terrorism laws have been revealed as unjust, unnecessary, expensive and open to abuse. Six months since the botched prosecution of Mohamed Haneef, three months after the dismissal of the trial of Izhar Ul Haque, and weeks into the trial of Melbourne men (arrested over two years ago) charged with comprising "a terrorist organisation", we think it's time to take a look at the laws and how they are being used and abused. It is time to put the laws on trial.

Secret policemen's bill: $7.5m
MORE than 600 security officials around the nation have worked on the Mohamed Haneef case and the related British bombings in an investigation which cost more than $7.5 million, collected 300 witness statements and examined 349 forensic samples. And the result so far: one charge against the doctor that was dropped within a fortnight.

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