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‘Freed’ Haneef in visa wait

Melbourne/New Delhi, July 27: Mohammed Haneef’s dramatic release from terror charges today shifted the focus to how soon his visa may be reinstated and where he would stay in “residential detention” till then.

Haneef was freed from his Brisbane jailhouse, the Wacol Correctional Centre, but till the matter of his visa is decided, he is required to report to the immigration department by phone every day and in person every week.

Delhi has asked Australia to reissue Haneef’s visa so he can return home. The doctor’s family wants him to fly back with a normal visa and not to be deported as a visa violator.

But immigration minister Kevin Andrews — who had cancelled Haneef’s visa and ordered him detained under immigration laws last week after a court had given him bail — said the visa had not been reinstated and Haneef would not immediately get his passport back.

“His passport hasn’t been returned; nor would it be returned unless… his visa was reinstated,” the minister said.

But he left open the possibility that the visa could be returned, saying he was seeking the solicitor-general’s advice on whether he needed to reverse his decision to cancel Haneef’s visa.

“Today, the (terror) charge was withdrawn. As a matter of prudence, as a matter of caution, I am seeking that advice,” he said.

Nowhere to go

Andrews added that the Indian would not stay in immigration detention but in “residential detention”.

“That means he has to reside at an agreed place, he’s free to actually move about in the community, but as a matter of legal principle he is still formally... in detention,” he explained.

But Haneef’s lawyer Peter Russo said he had “no idea” where his client would go. Haneef has no home after his lease at his Gold Coast apartment expired on Wednesday because of his failure to pay rent during detention.

At the hospital where he worked, he remains suspended without pay because he doesn’t have a work visa.

The property manager of Haneef’s apartment, Steve Boscher, said: “He’s officially no longer a tenant here. His lease has run out.”

Boscher added that the flat was “uninhabitable” after the damage caused by two police searches. He said Haneef’s belongings had been placed in storage.

Indian junior foreign minister E. Ahamed said Delhi was taking “all possible steps” for Haneef’s release and return. “As Haneef is a sincere, very honest person, and if there are no charges against him, he has requested a visa and we also support his request,” he said.

“We (have) requested the Australian government to grant him a proper visa,” Ahamed added.

Embarrassing error

Earlier, the terror case collapsed dramatically in court on the 25th day of Haneef’s detention.

Prosecutors withdrew the charge against Haneef after a review of the evidence by Australia’s chief prosecutor Damian Bugg found his office should never have recommended it.

“Mistakes are embarrassing,” Bugg told reporters. “I’m disappointed that it’s happened and I will first thing next week try and obtain a better understanding of how it came about.”

Russo said Haneef was pleased with the day’s events. “He’s quite upbeat and relaxed as you can imagine. He’s just had some very serious charges dropped. My client will be patient... until this is resolved.”

The former Bangalorean had been charged with recklessly supporting a terrorist organisation by leaving his SIM card with his cousin Sabeel Ahmed, one of the suspects in the failed UK car-bomb plot.

Bugg said there was insufficient evidence and “no reasonable prospect of conviction”.

Prosecutors had told a court that Haneef’s SIM card was found in the burning jeep in Glasgow, but they admitted today that it was found with Sabeel, as Haneef had told them all along.

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