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Reckless charge on Haneef
- Sabeel in dock for being in the know

Melbourne/ London, July 14: Mohammed Haneef was today charged with supporting the UK car-bomb plots on the ground that he had handed his SIM card to second cousin Sabeel Ahmed, who too was charged hours later in Britain.

Haneef is accused of “providing support to a terrorist organisation”, an Australian police statement said, but police chief Mick Keelty seemed to lighten the charge.

“The specific allegation regards recklessness rather than intention… that he was reckless about some of the support, in particular, the provision of his SIM card for the use of the group,” Keelty said.

In Britain, 26-year-old Sabeel, a doctor like Haneef, was accused of “having information that could prevent an act of terrorism”. Sabeel, the third suspect to be charged in the case after Iraqi doctor Bilal Abdulla and Haneef, is expected to be brought before a magistrate on Monday.

The SIM card, seized from Sabeel in Britain, hasn’t been linked to the failed June 29-30 bombings, though. One of Haneef’s lawyers said the case was “weak” and that the Indian doctor had been a “foolish dupe” rather than reckless.

Haneef, in custody since July 2, applied for bail but the hearing was adjourned till Monday after two long sessions, with prosecutor Clive Porritt apologising for the length of his submission.

The charge comes a day after the police dropped a request to extend Haneef’s detention. This meant they had 12 hours of interrogation time left after which they had to either free him or charge him.

It’s unclear how much the reckless/intentional distinction might help Haneef, 27, for the maximum penalty under the charge is a 15-year term.

Besides, it’s possible that the investigators think they have something stronger but need more evidence, and so brought a lighter charge to buy time and silence the calls to free Haneef or charge him.

But it’s also possible that the police, who haven’t found much to directly link Haneef to the plot, have charged him under whatever offence they could think of to placate hardline critics.

One of the defence lawyers, Peter Russo, said Haneef was “very upset”, but there was little emotion on the Indian’s face when he appeared for his bail plea in his glass-encased dock, his hands bound in metal cuffs as is the rule for all bail applicants.

Porritt said Haneef would have known that Sabeel and his brother Kafeel were linked to terrorism since the trio are distant cousins who once shared a house in Britain.

Defence lawyer Stephen Keim said Haneef had parted with the SIM card so Sabeel could take advantage of a special deal on his cellphone plan. “He should have been aware that something was going to happen when the rest of the world didn’t,” Keim said with a touch of sarcasm.

“It is not suggested that he is anything other than a foolish dupe who should have been more suspicious.”

“They knew about the SIM card from day one. Why did they wait for 12 days'” asked Haneef’s wife Firdous. She appealed to the Prime Minister and defence minister for help.

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