Australia drops doctor's terrorism charge as 'embarrassing mistake'

AN INDIAN doctor will be freed from custody after Australia's chief prosecutor said a charge linking him to attempted terror bombings in Glasgow and London was a mistake.

Prosecutors yesterday withdrew the accusation against Mohammed Haneef in Brisbane Magistrates' Court after a review of the evidence by the federal director of public prosecutions, Damian Bugg, found his office should never have recommended it.

"Mistakes are embarrassing. You're embarrassed if you do something wrong," Mr Bugg said.

"I'm disappointed that it's happened and I will first thing next week try to obtain a better understanding of how it came about," he added.

Dr Haneef, 27, had been charged with providing reckless support to a terrorist organisation because last year he gave his mobile phone SIM card to his second cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, who has been charged in relation to the attacks. He had faced up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

Prosecutor Alan MacSporran said the authorities had erred in telling the court that Dr Haneef's SIM card had been discovered inside the vehicle used to attack Glasgow Airport in June.

The card was found in the possession of Ahmed in Liverpool, more than 200 miles from the attack scene.

Dr Haneef has denied knowing anything about the British bomb plot, and told police he handed over his SIM card so his cousin could use extra minutes left on the account.

He told police he was rushing to India to join his family, because his daughter had been born a few days earlier.

Mr Bugg said there was insufficient evidence to prove the charge and described the mistake as "upsetting".

The decision to drop the charges was accepted by the head of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty, who attended a news conference with Mr Bugg.

He defended police handling of the case, which had been likened to the "Keystone Cops" by Queensland's premier, Peter Beattie, earlier in the week.

"This remains an ongoing investigation," Mr Keelty said. "It is a complex and painstaking process and the police will continue to work with UK colleagues to fully explore the evidence and establish the facts."

The government said Dr Haneef would be freed from custody while the immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, considered his decision to revoke the 27-year-old doctor's visa.

Dr Haneef will be free to return to his flat in the Gold Coast city in Queensland state, but must report daily to a department official.

His wife, Firdaus Arshiya, told reporters in Bangalore that she hoped her husband would fly home to India within days.

Dr Haneef has been in custody since 2 July, when he was arrested at Brisbane International Airport as he was about to fly to India on a one-way ticket.

A court ordered his release on bail last week, but Mr Andrews cancelled his visa on character grounds, based on information provided by the federal police.

Dr Haneef is due to appeal against that decision on 8 August. If he fails, he could be deported to India, which he opposes.

It emerged yesterday that hospital trusts have not been given enough time to carry out checks on some new doctors, including those recruited from abroad.

The problem comes hard on the heels of the controversy surrounding the alleged attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow by NHS employees.

Dr Bilal Abdullah, who has been charged with conspiracy to cause explosions following the Glasgow attack, has been suspended from practice by his professional body until 11 August.

The General Medical Council said it had taken the step pending the outcome of an investigation into matters relating to him.

The GMC's interim orders panel said it had decided Abdullah's registration should be suspended for 18 months.

However, as he had limited registration for the period 5 August, 2006, to 11 August, 2007, his registration was suspended only until 11 August, when the limited registration would expire anyway.

• A fire chief will face no further action for taking his young son into a mobile incident room at Glasgow Airport in the aftermath of the terrorist attack.

Brian Sweeney, Strathclyde Fire and Rescue chief, brought his nine-year-old son into the forward command vehicle during the terrorism alert last month.


SEVEN men and one woman were initially held over the car bomb attacks on Glasgow and central London:

• Dr Bilal Abdullah, arrested at Glasgow Airport on 30 June. Charged with conspiracy to cause explosions.

• Mohammed Asha, arrested on the M6 in Cheshire on 30 June. Also charged with conspiracy to cause explosions. His and Abdullah's case was yesterday adjourned until 10 September, when the men are due at a committal hearing.

• Dr Mohammed Haneef, arrested at Brisbane Airport and charged with providing support to terrorism. Charge withdrawn yesterday.

• Dr Sabeel Ahmed, arrested near Liverpool Lime Street station on 30 June and charged with not disclosing information that could have helped police arrest a suspected terrorist.

• Kafeel Ahmed, second man detained at Glasgow Airport, who remains under armed guard at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

• Marwa Asha, wife of Asha, also arrested on M6. Freed without charge on 13 July.

• Two trainee doctors arrested on 1 July. Later freed without charge.

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