Australian government under fire over Haneef visa decision

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Australia's federal government has come under fire by prominent human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, Q.C. for using migration laws to circumvent the release of Mohamed Haneef after he was granted bail in Brisbane Magistrate's Court.

Haneef is alleged to have provided support to a terrorist organisation, for leaving his mobile phone SIM card with Sabeel Ahmed who allegedly had knowledge of the Glasgow attacks.

Haneef's lawyers have also attacked the government's decision saying it will make it more difficult for Haneef to mount a defence should he be held in immigration detention. His lawyers are considering delaying posting his bail surety until his visa issues are resolved. This will allow Haneef to stay in Brisbane near them, his lawyers say. They have also indicated that they will appeal the government's decision.

Australian immigration minister Kevin Andrews announced yesterday that he had used his powers under the Migration Act to cancel Haneef's visa as he had failed a character check.

Mr Burnside is sceptical of Mr Andrews' motives, claiming the government would not have cancelled Haneef's visa if he had not been bailed. He said Mr Andrew's moves amount to the government interfering in the judicial process.

“They want to keep him here for trial. They waited to cancel his visa until they saw whether he got bail,” Mr Burnside told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

“If he didn’t get bail then they weren’t going to cancel the visa."

“This is a misuse of power in bad faith for the explicit purpose of trumping a magistrate’s order that he should be let out on bail."

“I think it’s disgraceful that Andrews has lent himself to doing it, because as a lawyer, he ought to know better,” said Mr Burnside.

Mr Burnside attacked the government, claiming its decision to cancel Haneef's visa tramples on some of the key foundations of democracy. He further alleged that the government was acting hypocritically.

“We are supposed to be a democratic society. I thought the war against terrorism was an effort to preserve our democracy. But here we are trashing it left, right and centre in the name of saving it.”

Burnside also questioned the government's anti-terror laws, saying it was unusual for a person to be charged with giving someone a SIM card twelve months earlier.

Queensland's Premier Peter Beattie called on the immigration minister to explain the reason for Haneef's visa being cancelled. Mr Beattie said that the Australian people believed the government was being heavy-handed.

"But clearly the Federal Minister for Immigration has acted in relation to particular information from the federal police."

"If there's something they have become aware of since this investigation started that's not the subject of the charge, then they should share that with the Australian people," Mr Beattie told the media.

Related news