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I would fail character test: Haneef judge

18th July 2007, 18:15 WST

Dr Mohamed Haneef

A Federal Court judge has questioned Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews’ decision to cancel the visa of terror suspect Mohamed Haneef.

Justice Jeffery Spender, who is hearing the appeal against Mr Andrews’ decision, today told a court he too would fail the character test used to justify the minister’s decision to cancel the Indian national’s visa.

Mr Andrews said on Monday he had a “reasonable suspicion” that Haneef had an association with persons involved in terrorism.

His move came within hours of a magistrate granting Haneef bail, and was aimed at keeping the Gold Coast hospital registrar behind bars in immigration detention if not in a prison.

Haneef, who is charged with supporting a terrorist organisation, was today transferred from police custody to Brisbane’s Wolston Correctional Centre after failing to meet bail conditions.

Documents served on the Indian-born Muslim do not state what information Mr Andrews used to make his decision to cancel Haneef’s visa.

But they make reference to the fact Haneef is the cousin of UK terror suspects Sabeel and Kafeel Ahmed and that he had lived with them.

Haneef also provided his cousins his mobile phone and SIM card and has admitted borrowing STG300 ($A705) from Kafeel Ahmed so he could sit a medical exam.

Justice Spender today asked counsel representing the minister, Rodger Derrington, whether that was sufficient to support Mr Andrews’ ruling, adding he would fail the character test because he had represented murderers in the past.

“Unfortunately, I would fail the character test on your statement because I have been associated with persons suspected of criminal conduct,” he said.

“Suppose he had a cup of coffee with them 12 months ago, is that all association means?”

Mr Derrington agreed that would be enough for Justice Spender to fail the test, if he were a foreign citizen working in Australia on a visa.

However, he said the low standard of proof required for the character test was necessary because the Australian government could not conduct criminal investigations on foreign shores.

Haneef was charged on Saturday with “recklessly” providing support to a terrorist organisation, 12 days after he was arrested at Brisbane Airport while attempting to board a flight to India with a one-way ticket.

Justice Spender was also sceptical of the timing of the minister’s decision, just hours after Magistrate Jacqui Payne granted Haneef bail on a $10,000 surety.

He said it was “curious” the minister had not decided to cancel the visa earlier.

“There is room for the view that this was an act of circumventing the inconvenience of having him on bail,” he said.

However Mr Derrington said it would have been inappropriate for the minister to cancel Haneef’s visa while he was under a federal police investigation.

“Had his visa been revoked while he was being investigated there would have been a hue and cry,” he said.

The directions hearing was called late this afternoon after lawyers for Haneef lodged an appeal against the minister’s visa decision.

The matter has been set down for hearing on August 8.

Justice Spender urged Mr Andrews to provide all the material used to make his decision, including those currently protected in the interest of national security.

He said it would be difficult to make his decision without knowing all the facts.

Meanwhile Haneef will be treated “as a terrorist” while detained in jail and subject to special conditions, including solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, the Queensland government revealed today.

Queensland Police and Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence said the conditions of his detention included no contact with other inmates, meaning Haneef would be alone in a cell for all but one hour a day, when he is allowed to exercise.

“Anyone who is charged under terrorist legislation is obviously seen as a greater threat to the good order of our society than other type of prisoners,” she said.