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Home but with visa blot

Bangalore, July 28: A smiling Mohammed Haneef boarded a flight out of Brisbane tonight to be united with his wife and baby daughter after the immigration authorities said he could leave Australia.

But the Indian doctor, whose plane is expected to touch down here at 9.30am tomorrow, was denied a reinstatement of his cancelled work visa. He isn’t being deported, though, confirmed his wife Firdous who had all along insisted that Haneef be allowed an honourable departure.

The Indian has been issued a “bridging visa” — temporary papers that allow overstaying tourists to leave Australia.

Haneef’s lawyer Peter Russo, who is accompanying the doctor and his relative Imran Siddiqui to India, has vowed to fight on to get the work visa reissued and has secured a court hearing on August 8.

“Haneef had a choice of either staying until the hearing was concluded or going back,” Russo said, adding the Indian was homesick and was especially eager to see his ailing mother.

A source close to the family who didn’t want to be named claimed the lawyer, who took up the case on a request from Australian police, will collect his fees in India.

“Haneef will probably have to borrow the money — the fees are close to Rs 13 lakh,” he said. “Had Haneef stayed back to fight the visa case, it would have cost him at least Rs 40 lakh.”

Russo said Haneef had wanted to publicly thank Australians for their support and was disappointed that the government banned him from speaking to the media. He added that the support had convinced Haneef “he might want to return to live and work in Australia one day”.

Haneef is “grateful” to Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, who has said he can have his hospital job back as soon as his work visa is reinstated, Russo said.

His first words after release last night were “Thank you, thank you, thank you Peter,” Russo said. The duo and Siddiqui celebrated by eating takeaway Indian food.

The police had used a car carrying an Indian looking like Haneef as a decoy to trick reporters, who went on a wild goose chase. The real Haneef was taken to a secret Brisbane address.

Haneef gave a thumbs-up as he arrived at the airport in a blue blazer and matching shirt and tie. The plane took off at 8pm (Indian time) for Bangkok, from where another Thai Airways flight will bring Haneef to Bangalore. City police said they would question the doctor tomorrow.

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