Sifting through the voluminous material that the federal Government has released under FOI in the case of Dr Mohammed Haneef (read the full set of documents here – part A, part B, part C, part D), a number of things become clear. Firstly, that the AFP and Queensland Police changed their line from the time they arrested Haneef on July 2 to the bail hearing on July 14 on what sort of risk Haneef would be if he were granted bail by Brisbane Magistrate Jacqui Payne. Secondly, that former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, in cancelling Dr Haneef’s visa shortly after Ms Payne granted bail on 16 July, clearly abandoned the usual practice of not interfering with a person’s visa simply because they are charged with criminal offences. And thirdly, there appears to have been some tension between the AFP and the Queensland Police over the treatment of Dr Haneef.

The AFP changes it tune

Mohammed Haneef was arrested at Brisbane airport on the evening of 2 July 2007and the AFP faced the prospect of having to release him by Friday July 6. Because they wanted to keep tabs on Dr Haneef for longer, the AFP looked at the possibility of obtaining a control or preventative detention order (PDO), both controversial measures in the Howard/ALP anti-terror laws which allow persons to have their movements curtailed even though they have not been charged with an offence.

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But in memos dated 3 July 2007, the AFP made it clear that at that stage “there is no reasonable suspicion that there is need to preserve evidence and that the detention is reasonably necessary for this purpose.” And the AFP noted in its memo that it had no information to indicate that there “is outstanding evidence which is required to be preserved.”

Eight days later and Dr Haneef was still in custody. AFP Officer Adam Simms, in a document dated 11 July, used to justify further detention of Dr Haneef, asserted that continued detention of Haneef was necessary to “(i) preserve evidence; (ii) obtain evidence; and (iii) to complete the investigation.” Three days later, on July 14, a senior AFP officer, Ramzi Jabbour, in a document filed in the bail hearing, said that if Dr Haneef were granted bail he could have destroyed potentially incriminating evidence that has not yet been located, and organise for others to provide innocent explanations for potentially incriminating evidence.

In short, the AFP appears to have done a 180 degree turn on the issue of preservation of evidence. On 3 July it did not regard the need to preserve evidence to be a ground on which Dr Haneef should be continued to be detained, but on 11 July and 14 July it had changed its mind. There is nothing on the public record, or in the volumes of material just released under FOI which explains this change of attitude.

Did Kevin Andrews ignore AFP advice?

On 18 July last year, former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews told a media conference that in making his decision to cancel Dr Haneef’s visa he “carefully examine[d] what the Federal Police provided to me and on the basis of the information from the Federal Police and then looking at the criteria in the migration legislation, I came to the conclusion that I should revoke his Visa.”

One of the documents released under FOI is an AFP Case Note dated 14 July. It notes that an AFP agent, whose name has been blacked out, “contacted the DIAC BNE Manager Compliance”. This is shorthand for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Manager of Compliance in the Brisbane office. The AFP agent stated while DIAC could “choose to cancel the visa” of Dr Haneef, the AFP agent “further stated that he believed a person’s visa would not normally be cancelled as a result of criminal charges.”

It is reasonable to assume that the AFP’s view about not cancelling visas in these circumstances would have been conveyed to Mr Andrews. So why then did he ignore it in this case, particularly given the paucity of evidence against Dr Haneef and the obvious weakness of the case against him which was exactly why Ms Payne granted him bail?

Tension between the AFP and the Queensland Police?

An email dated 27 July from the AFP deals with the placement of Dr Haneef in a residence in the riverside Brisbane area of Kangaroo Point. The author, whose name has been blacked out, wants the recipient to pass on a message to the Queensland Police about how it deals with Dr Haneef while he is under detention in Kangaroo Point. “Due to the media scrutiny this matter has experienced it would be pertinent that no action/behaviour by QPS officers could be perceived as being harassment.”

Of course this comment begs the question of whether or not Dr Haneef had been harassed or treated inappropriately by any police officers up to that point. And it seems to assume that if there were no media scrutiny of the Haneef case, there would not be the same level of concern for Dr Haneef’s welfare.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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