Australia holds Indian doctor on visa rules

Mohamed Haneef, the Indian doctor charged in Australia on Saturday with providing support to a terrorist organization, was Monday night being held in an immigration detention centre after his work visa was revoked by the government.

Kevin Andrews, Australian immigration minister, made the decision hours after a Brisbane magistrate granted the 27-year-old doctor bail, prompting legal experts to accuse the government of political interference and undermining the independence of the court system.

Mr Haneef was charged 12 days after he was detained under Australia’s controversial anti-terrorism laws in connection with his involvement with the alleged perpetrators of the failed car bombings in Glasgow and London.

The Brisbane magistrate granted bail saying that Mr Haneef had no known links to a terrorist organization, and in spite of prosecutors’ calls that he only be released in ”exceptional circumstances”.

However, Mr Andrews said it was in Australia’s “national interest” to cancel Mr Haneef’s skilled work visa.

”Based on information and advice I have received from the Australian Federal Police, I reasonably suspect that Dr Haneef has had or has an association with persons involved in criminal conduct, namely terrorism,” he said.

”I have a responsibility and a duty as minister under the (Migration) Act to turn my mind to the question of whether Dr Haneef passes the character test.”

Although minor political parties said the government intervention was political, the opposition Labor party said it supported Mr Andrews’ decision.

Mr Haneef’s lawyers said they would appeal the decision which will keep the doctor in immigration detention pending the outcome of his case.

Greg Barns, a human rights lawyer, said the decision to revoke Mr Haneef’s visa ”looks bad”.

”It looks as though the Commonwealth has sought to get around their failure in Brisbane this morning to stop Dr Haneef from getting bail by using the Migration Act to achieve this end,” he said.

”Mr Andrews could have made a decision on Dr Haneef when he was charged over the weekend - why wait until now?”

Andrew Lynch, a senior lecturer in constitutional law at the University of NSW, said the decision essentially prejudged the court process.

Mr Haneef was the first individual in Australia to be held under the country’s anti-terrorism laws.

He is related to two men detained in the UK – Sabeel and Kafeel Ahmed – who are alleged to have driven a burning Jeep Cherokee into Glasgow‘s airport.

Australian officials arrested Mr Haneef after his mobile phone’s SIM card was found in the possession of one of the British suspects, later identified in media reports as Sabeel Ahmed.

Official documents cited by The Australian newspaper said Mr Haneef gave the SIM card to Sabeel Ahmed before he moved to Australia from Britain last year so that his cousin could take advantage of free minutes left on his mobile phone plan.

Mr Haneef was arrested at Brisbane airport on July 2 with a one-way ticket to India. He told authorities he was on his way to Bangalore to visit his wife who had recently given birth.

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