Apology sought for Australian doctor accused of involvement in UK bomb attacks

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 31 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a3176
  1. Jane McCredie
  1. 1Sydney

    Pressure has been mounting in the Australian media for the government to apologise and compensate Mohamed Haneef, the former Queensland doctor accused of being involved in the attempted terrorist attacks in Britain in June 2007, after an independent inquiry found no evidence for the charges laid against him.

    Dr Haneef, who had been working at a hospital on the Gold Coast, was arrested at Brisbane airport a few days after the attempted car bombings in the West End in London and at Glasgow airport.

    The Indian born doctor had been implicated in the attacks after his mobile phone SIM card was found in the possession of his second cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, the brother of one of the bombers.

    However, the inquiry, which was commissioned at the start of 2008 by the incoming Labor government and whose findings were released in December, found that Dr Haneef had been wrongly charged with terrorism related offences. It described the then Liberal government’s decision to cancel Dr Haneef’s working visa to Australia as “mystifying.”

    The inquiry found no evidence that a terrorist organisation involving either of the Ahmed brothers existed at the time that Dr Haneef gave them his SIM card, in 2006, said the report, by the retired Supreme Court judge John Clarke.

    “I could find no evidence that he [Dr Haneef] was associated with or had foreknowledge of the terrorist events or of the possible involvement of his second cousins Dr Sabeel Ahmed and Mr Kafeel Ahmed,” Mr Clarke wrote.

    The extensive public criticism of the handling of Dr Haneef’s case was understandable, the report said, given the doctor’s lengthy detention and the “spectacular and speedy collapse of the prosecution.” Dr Haneef was detained for two weeks, and for most of this time no charges were laid.

    A large part of the information on which police relied had come from the United Kingdom, and this dependence on overseas information had “bedevilled the investigation,” Mr Clarke wrote.

    A shake-up of the Australian Federal Police and intelligence agencies is expected in the wake of the report, which has recommended procedural changes, further reviews, and possible amendments to legislation.

    Anna Bligh, Queensland’s premier, has added her voice to calls for Dr Haneef to receive an apology, although the federal government has so far indicated that any such step would be a matter for members of the previous Liberal government, which was in power at the time of the affair.

    Dr Haneef has said he would welcome an apology and may seek compensation. In an interview from Dubai, where he now works, he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that a government apology would be “a healing touch.”


    Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a3176

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