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Justice, The Australian Way

By Ghali Hassan

22 July, 2007

Can you imagine what would happen if Dr Haneef is a white Anglo-Australian detained in India, accused of trafficking in narcotic drugs? Actually, you don’t have to imagine. The entire Indian justice system will be on trial in Australia, accused of corruption and injustice. In Australia, a Guantanamo Bay justice applied to Dr Haneef even with the presumption of innocence.

Dr Mohammed Haneef, the 27-year-old Indian-born Muslims doctor working in the Gold Coast, was arrested by Australian Federal Police (AFP) on 02 July 2007 at Brisbane Airport on his way to visit his young family in India.

Using the draconian anti-Muslims “terrorism laws”, the AFP detained and interrogated Dr Haneef for 12 days without charge and without access to legal advice. He was accused of “providing resources to terrorists”. As pressure mounted by Dr Haneef’s legal team for his release, Dr Haneef was charged with “recklessly” giving his pre-paid SIM card to his second cousin last year. Dr Haneef’s cousin was allegedly involved in the recent failed attacks in Britain. The SIM card was not used in the attack and was seized by police eight hours after Haneef's cousin Sabeel Ahmed was arrested in Liverpool. Ahmed was charged only with withholding information which would remove Haneef's alleged link to the Glasgow attack.

However, when Dr Haneef was due to be released on bail by the Queensland Court, the Federal Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews intervened and cancelled Dr. Haneef visa in order to keep him in detention, which goes against the bail order. By taking this extraordinary action, the Howard’s Government is denying Dr Haneef the presumption of innocence.

Any person charged with an offence is innocent until proven guilty by a just and impartial court of law. Association alone doesn’t make a person guilty. By keeping Dr Haneef in custody, “this is a serious misuse of power for an ulterior purpose and an illegitimate interference with the process of criminal justice”, wrote Julian Burnside, QC and President of Liberty Victoria.

A police check in India also found no evidence to associate Dr Haneef with any crimes. In fact, Dr Haneef was found to be of a good character and a good employment history. Dr Haneef was the subject of media disinformation led by the fascist Murdoch Press as part of a campaign of anti-Muslims hatred and Islamophobia.

It is worth noting that the AFP provides no evidence to support the allegations against Dr Haneef. The Government revealed no information regarding its decision to cancel Dr Haneef’s visa. Dr Haneef’s barrister Stephen Kiem said that the Government is using and abusing the “terrorism laws” by withholding information. “The record with regard to secret information is that it’s convenient to the commonwealth”, said Mr Kiem.

The decision of the Immigration Minister to revoke Dr Haneef’s visa was politically motivated and designed to boost the Howard’s Government popularity a head of the upcoming elections. Dr Haneef’s lawyer Peter Russo rightly accused the Government of using Dr Haneef as a pawn to create fear in the community. The Howard’s Government is very skilled in the art of manipulation of the public and use of racism and scaremongering to win elections. Meanwhile, as a result of Australia’s well-documented victimisation of Muslims and police harassment of Muslim Australians, members of the Muslim community here are living in fear.

Finally, India which claims to be the largest “democracy” in the world, and an emerging “superpower” should do the right thing and recall the Indian High Commissioner in Canberra as a protest against the injustice and inhumane treatment of Dr Haneef by the Australian Government. The Howard’s Government must learn that Muslims also have rights.

There is no conclusive evidence to justify Dr Haneef’ detention. His continued detention is the greatest injustice, and undermines his right to the presumption of innocence. This form of injustice is only adding to Australia’s already tarnish reputation as an anti-Muslims penal colony.

Ghali Hassan is an independent writer living in Australia.

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