| People come out in support of Haneef in Brisbane after his visa was cancelled on Monday. (AFP)
Sydney, July 16 (Agencies): Mohammed Haneef today received bail from a magistrate’s court but the Australian government stopped his release by immediately ordering him detained under immigration laws for being of bad character.
Immigration minister Kevin Andrews said he had cancelled the Indian doctor’s work visa because he had “failed the character test”. He added that Haneef would be taken from his Brisbane jailhouse to Sydney’s Villawood immigration detention centre.
The announcement prompted an outcry from rights activists and Haneef’s lawyers and family, who said the government was subverting the judicial process and wanted to keep him behind bars under any pretext.
Haneef, 27, has been charged with “providing support to a terrorist organisation” because he left his SIM card with second cousin Sabeel Ahmed, a suspect in the failed June 29-30 UK bombings who was today remanded till August 13 by a British court.
Magistrate Jacqui Payne had ordered Haneef released on an A$10,000 (Rs 3.5 lakh) bail, saying he had no known links with a terrorist organisation and that police were not alleging his SIM card had been used in the UK plot.
But within hours, Andrews was telling reporters: “I reasonably suspect that he has or has had an association with persons engaged in criminal activity, criminal conduct, namely terrorism in the UK.”
Haneef’s lawyer Peter Russo said he would appeal the government’s decision. “We will start the next battle. If that’s the way they want to do it — bring it on,” he told reporters.
Russo said Haneef could avoid being sent to Villawood if he did not post bail. That would mean he would stay in Brisbane.
“That’s an avenue open to him. We have to make sure that what we’re doing is in the client’s interests first and foremost and secondly, what’s going to be the best way to proceed from here.”
He said Haneef has been calm. “He’s very respectful. I probably reacted worse than he did. I told him ‘we’ve won a few battles and we will fight the next battle’.”
Australian laws require all non-citizens who are unlawfully in the country to be detained and removed as soon as practical. This group includes those who arrived without a visa or had overstayed or had their visa cancelled. The process is subject to both administrative and judicial review.
Critics said Andrews’ decision — and its timing — appeared to challenge the court’s authority.
Cameron Murphy of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties said it wasn’t the first time the government had acted in such a way. He likened it to the case of Australian al Qaida suspect Jack Thomas, who had a control order placed on him last year days after an appeals court had quashed his terrorism-related convictions.
Australia’s main Opposition, the Labor Party, supported the government’s decision but the Australian Greens said the move undermined the doctor’s chances of a fair trial.
The Age newspaper quoted leading Australian barrister Phillip Boulten as saying that the law under which Haneef was charged specifically required that the accused intentionally provided support or resources to a terrorist organisation.
The police have already said Haneef had “recklessly” rather than “intentionally” provided support to the suspected UK plotters.
“The prosecution would need to show that Haneef intended to provide the SIM card to an organisation, not just his second cousin,” he said.
Payne had granted Haneef bail on the conditions that he paid the bond, reported to the police three times a week and stayed away from any international ports.
Haneef will stay in immigration detention until trial. He then faces deportation if acquitted of any crime, or once he has completed any sentence.