Indian doctor sues Australia over terror arrest

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An Indian doctor wrongly charged in connection with botched terror attacks in Britain sued the Australian government on Thursday for unlawful arrest and abuse of power.

Mohamed Haneef, who was incorrectly linked to the militants responsible for failed June 2007 car bombings in London and Glasgow, launched legal action over his arrest and two-week detention without charge through his Australian lawyers.

"The proceedings have been filed on behalf of Dr Haneef simply as a safeguard to protect his legal rights with regard to the time limits which apply to the various legal actions," said Rod Hodgson, a partner at the Maurice Blackburn firm, which is handling Haneef's case.

The Brisbane Supreme Court suit also alleges defamation by the former immigration minister Kevin Andrews, who cancelled Haneef's visa on character grounds just hours after he was granted bail on a terrorism charge, forcing him to return to India.

Hodgson said the legal action followed a 2008 inquiry into the handling of Haneef's case which found he was wrongfully charged and the victim of bungling at the highest levels, prompting a sweeping review of anti-terror laws.

Retired judge John Clarke cleared the then-government of conservative leader John Howard of improper behaviour or political motivation in pursuing a case against Haneef, but said he found "no evidence that (Haneef) was associated with or had foreknowledge of the terrorist events".

Clarke said immigration minister Andrews had been entitled to cancel the doctor's visa, but had failed to ask vital questions which would have revealed conflicting information held by Australian intelligence agencies.

Hodgson said Maurice Blackburn hoped to settle the claim with the government and did "not intend to advance Dr Haneef's matter through the courts unless negotiations with the government appear unlikely to be satisfactory".

© 2010 AFP

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