Indian doctor held in Australia on terrorism charges released

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Ordeal over, Haneef on way home
29 Jul 2007, 0000 hrs IST,TNN

BANGALORE: After 26 days in captivity, it’s freedom for Dr Mohammed Haneef at last. He will reunite with his family by Sunday night.

The doctor boarded a Thai Airways flight, along with his cousin Imran Siddiqui and lawyer Peter Russo on Saturday. They will take a connecting flight to India from Bangkok.

Haneef had two options — he could stay in residential detention in Australia and fight the case or return to India pending visa restoration. He chose the latter.

Is Haneef being deported? In a statement released to STOI, minister for immigration and citizenship Kevin Andrews said, “On Friday night, lawyers for Dr Haneef contacted officials from the department of immigration and asked if Haneef could leave Australia as soon as possible. After taking advice, including from the Australian federal police, I have indicated that the Commonwealth has no objection to Dr Haneef leaving Australia. Indeed the effect of Dr Haneef’s visa cancellation is that he should depart Australia.”

According to Haneef’s lawyer Peter Russo,”Haneef has not been deported. The Australian government has not asked him to leave. They have said he is free to either stay back or return to India. They have only said he is free to take a decision either way, but have not asked him to leave. They have said he could leave only if he wanted to. He had been given an option.”

Haneef chose to leave because he wanted to be with his family. “It was a voluntary decision by Haneef. He said he wants to be with his people. He wants to be home soon with his wife, child and mother,” said Russo.

Technically Haneef could have stayed back in Australia till the August 8 hearing for two reasons – charges against him having been dropped, he was given the option of staying back or leaving Australia; the visa case is before the court and no decision on deportation could have been taken by the Australian government until the court gave its ruling.

He could not be put back in criminal detention because all charges had been dropped. Haneef could have enjoyed freedom, even if a bit restricted until the court ruling on August 8.

As things stand, Haneef could still get back his visa and return to Australia to work as a free man. Explaining the rules of deportation, Russo said, “Only if the Federal Court in Brisbane on August 8 is convinced by the Australian government’s case against that Haneef should not be given his visa, will the government be entitled to technically deport Haneef. The government will not have an option but to deport Haneef.”