09.14 pm, Sunday December 07 2008

Haneef's lawyer wants terror law revamp

16:04 AEST Sun Jul 15 2007
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The lawyer for a Gold Coast based doctor charged with terrorism offences says his client is being treated unfairly under tough federal government legislation.

Prominent Brisbane solicitor Peter Russo said after spending 12 days in custody without charge Dr Mohamed Haneef now faced a difficult battle to secure bail.

That's because under the federal government legislation, those charged with terrorism offences can only be granted bail in "exceptional circumstances".

Indian national Haneef has been charged with supporting terrorism for "recklessly" providing his mobile phone SIM card to terrorist suspects Sabeel and Kafeel Ahmed, his second cousins, when he left the UK for Australia last year.

Kafeel Ahmed was the alleged driver of the flaming jeep which crashed at Glasgow Airport on June 30 but has yet to be charged by UK authorities, while his brother Sabeel Ahmed on Saturday became the second UK suspect charged over the failed terrorist plot.

Mr Russo said it was wrong for Haneef to be treated in the same way as those who carried out terrorist acts.

"The trouble is, he's being dealt with as if he's been charged with the most serious charge a person can be charged with under the legislation," he said.

The barrister representing Dr Haneef, Stephen Keim SC, argued in Brisbane Magistrates Court the "extremely weak" case against his client was enough to justify an "exceptional circumstance".

Magistrate Jacqui Payne will give her decision on the bail application on Monday.

Regardless of that decision Mr Russo wants terror laws overhauled to prevent others facing the same treatment as his client.

"There is no balance in our legislation, there is no balance for an even-minded person to look at the facts and make a decision."

However, Prime Minister John Howard defended the laws and even spoke of strengthening them.

"I believe that the present laws are all necessary. I have an open mind as to whether they might need to be strengthened in the future.

"I won't talk about Haneef's case, but the present laws were all necessary. All of them. To the very last letter."

Federal Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock said the laws were achieving their purpose.

"I think the laws have been balanced and appropriate and, in a large measure, appropriate for the risks we face," he said.

"That doesn't mean there won't be fine-tuning arising from the particular experiences that might flow from current investigations."

Meanwhile, Australian Federal Police officers in Western Australia are examining evidence seized from a Perth house.

Both the AFP and WA police are keeping quiet about the nature of the raid but it's believed they are investigating alleged links between terrorism and foreign-trained doctors.

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