The handling of Mohammed Haneef’s case by the Howard government and the law enforcement agencies grows more problematic everyday. In fact, one wonders now if Dr Haneef is the victim of some serious injustice.

The Australian’s Hedley Thomas has conducted a thorough analysis, comparing the leaked Haneef record of interview with the affidavit material the AFP and its lawyers put before the courts to justify both the original detention without charge and their opposition to bail for Dr Haneef.

It’s worth recounting what Thomas has found because it raises serious questions about the integrity of this investigation. In two key areas it appears that Dr Haneef has been “verballed” by the authorities.

Firstly, according to Thomas, “The police affidavit states: ‘On 2 July and 3 July 2007 Dr Haneef participated in a taped record of interview with the AFP and stated the following: Whilst in the UK he resided with suspects 1 and 2 (alleged suicide bomber Kafeel Ahmed and his brother Dr Sabeel Ahmed), at 13 Bentley Road, Liverpool.'”

But as Thomas says, “However, in the record of interview … Dr Haneef tells police that he lived at 13 Bentley Road, Liverpool, with several doctors, whom he names. None are the two suspects. Dr Haneef tells police he visited Cambridge on two occasions in 2004 and stayed for up to six days with Kafeel Ahmed. Dr Haneef also states that he had moved out of 13 Bentley Road when Dr Sabeel Ahmed subsequently stayed there.”

Yet, Thomas notes, an Immigration Department document used to advise Mr Andrews, states “Dr Haneef advised the AFP that he resided with Dr Sabeel Ahmed at a boarding house located at 13 Bentley Road, Liverpool, UK.”

Second, the police affidavit, according to Thomas, “asserts that Dr Haneef, 27, a Gold Coast Hospital registrar since September last year, ‘had no explanation as to why he did not have a return ticket’ from India to Australia. Dr Haneef, whose wife, Firdous Arshiya, gave birth to their first child by emergency caesarean section on June 26 in Bangalore, India, was trying to leave Australia on July 2 on a one-way ticket bought the same day by his father-in-law in India.”

Thomas then writes, “While the police affidavit stated Dr Haneef ‘had no explanation’ about his one-way ticket, the record of interview shows that he gave a detailed explanation to police while answering questions. Dr Haneef told police that as he did not have funds in his Australian bank account his father-in-law had booked and paid for the one-way ticket with an understanding that “when I go there we can arrange for the coming back ticket. Because I just got 7 days’ leave approved”.

If there is no explanation for these discrepancies then legitimate questions can be raised about the AFP and Immigration Department’s conduct in this matter. Verballing a suspect – that is, twisting what they say or putting words in their mouth — is about as serious a breach of fairness as there is. It’s an age old practice which has been mitigated in recent years by the use of taped and video recorded interviews by police with suspects.

Instead of Mr Ruddock and Mr Keelty pointing the finger at the brave and principled actions of Dr Haneef’s barrister Stephen Keim in releasing his client’s record of interview to The Australian this week, they should be looking long and hard at the actions of their own officers and lawyers.

For the sake of the integrity of the justice and migration processes in this country Hedley Thomas’s allegations of verballing of Dr Haneef require urgent investigation and examination. It’s up to you Mr Ruddock, Mr Andrews and Mr Keelty to make sure that happens.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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