Thursday, 26 July 2007


Haneef’s Case: An Instance of Reckless Use of Anti-terrorist Laws and Abuse of Process

Dr Mohamed Haneef, an Indian doctor working in Brisbane, was recently charged under the Australian laws for “recklessly” providing support to a terrorist organisation. The gravemen of the charge is that he left his SIM card with unused credit with his cousins in England who have been charged for smashing a jeep into the Glasgow airport. For details and background facts, one might refer to the Wikipedia entry or The Australian.

After remaining in police custody for almost two weeks without any charge, a magistrate released Haneef on bail because the prosecution could not provide credible evidence of a direct link between Haneef and a terrorist organisation. The case took an interesting twist when hours after his release on bail, the Australian Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews cancelled Haneef’s visa on the ground of failing the “character test” under the Migration Act.

The whole saga raises, at least, two sets of questions. First, are states – in their over-zeal to win the war against terrorism – invoking anti-terrorist laws (some of which are inhumane in nature) somewhat recklessly and for purposes other than the intended ones? More importantly, is this approach going to prove counterproductive in containing terrorism?

Second, was the cancellation of visa by the Minister an instance of colourable exercise of power in that the Minister tried to do something what the government could not do directly, that is, keeping Haneef behind bars? Moreover, does it amount to interference with the judicial process?

My short response to all the above questions is, yes. For a slightly longer response, see my piece posted at On Line Opinion.
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