George Bush has some stiff competition in the realm of terror hysteria and misusing the justice system to persecute those whose connection to terror is at best marginal or even non-existent. Take the case of Mohammed Haneef. He is the Indian doctor arrested in Australia as he tried to leave on a flight to see his wife back home who’s just given birth. Haneef is a cousin to two of the key alleged conspirators in the English car-bombing plot. What did this poor bloke do to get himself in hot water? A year ago, just before leaving England he gave a cell phone (SIM) card to the cousin. Yup, that’s it. Haneef has no other connection to the crime than that. He didn’t know about the plot, never discussed it with his cousins. All he did was do a good deed to a family member by giving him a phone card. For this, he’s accused of aiding a “terrorist organization.” How was Haneef supposed to have known his cousin would become a terrorist organization a year later??
If we take this charge to its logical conclusion couldn’t the police review every transaction every terror suspect ever engaged in and arrest every single person who conducted such a transaction with them?? Where does this nonsense end?
The Howard government, apparently miffed that the Australian magistrate set bail at $10,000 Australian dollars rather than the $100,000 requested, decided to do an end around the justice system. It revoked Haneef’s visa thereby making him an illegal resident and jailable without possibility of posting bail. So now they have him in custody for the duration:
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews has announced that Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef has had his visa cancelled and will be taken into immigration detention.
Haneef was granted bail in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning after being charged on Saturday with recklessly providing resources to a terrorist organisation.
The legal justification behind the visa cancellation is also a wonder of modern jurisprudence. Apparently, Haneef was supposed to have had ESP or clairvoyance when he gave that SIM card to his cousin a year ago to realize that at some point in the future he would become a terrorist:
Mr Andrews says he has used his powers under the Migration Act to cancel Haneef’s visa because he has failed the character test.
“In particular, a person fails the character test if – and I quote – ‘the person has or has had an association with someone else or with a group or organisation whom the Minister reasonably suspects has been involved has been or is involved in criminal conduct’,” he said.
So, not content to let the legal system judge the charges against him in the first trial, the Howard government has introduced a double whammy second charge. The immigrantion charges are virtually a repeat of the original “aiding terror” charges. So what’s the point except to ensure the poor guy will be under the government’s thumb until the trial is over?
Unlike in this country, at least some of the Australian media and legal profession are treating the government’s statements in this case with a healthy dose of skepticism:
In an often heated exchange, Mr Andrews fielded questions from reporters.
“Doesn’t this go against the legal rule that we’ve established over a thousand years? That someone is innocent until proven guilty. You’re pre-empting a judgment on his innocence,” asked one reporter.
Mr Andrews: This is unrelated to …
Reporter: How is this unrelated, minister …
Mr Andrews: Do you want to hear the answer?
Mr Andrews: This is unrelated to the question of proceedings in the criminal court in Brisbane. This is a direct responsibility set out in the Migration Act, this is not the first person, indeed, whose visa has been cancelled.
“What chances does this fellow have of gaining justice in this country when he faces criminal charges in one court, and in another place, in a sort of a Catch-22, a minister of the Crown declares that he’s a terrorist?” asked one reporter.
“What sort of chances does he have after these comments by you?” asked another.
Mr Andrews said he was not commenting on the legal charge, nor attempting to interfere in it, he was simply exercising his duties under the Migration Act.
“The magistrate in Brisbane has a set of responsibilities which she has carried out and I’m making no comment whatsoever on the magistrate or any decision made by the magistrate in Queensland.
“I have parallel to that a set of responsibility and that’s what I’ve acted on.”
Mr Andrews said Dr Haneef had legal recourse and had seven days to appeal to the Federal Court against the decision.
He will remain in immigration detention until his trial in Brisbane is over. If found innocent, he will be deported.
Get that? If Haneef is found innocent of the charges of aiding and abetting terrorism he will be deported even though the only reason his visa was cancelled was that he was alleged to have aided and abetted terrorism. On what basis would you deport him if he’s not guilty of anything? Whoa nelly, something’s cock-eyed here.
An Australian immigration law expert takes extreme issue with the minister’s characterization of his responsibilities:
Stephen Estcourt, president of the Australian Bar Association, could not believe the minister’s action.
“He can’t do that,” said Mr Estcourt, who spent four years ruling on immigration detention cases on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
He said the minister was “usurping the role of the court” to take action now.
“Usually this sort of visa cancellation takes place after charges have been laid against someone and they`ve run their course and they’ve resulted in a penalty being imposed … I have not heard of this power being used pre-emptively in this way.
“It has got to be seen as a threat to the rule of law if a ministerial discretion is used to effectively reverse, or to reverse for practical purposes a decision of the court. And it’s sophistry to say that one’s got nothing to do with the other.”
The Queensland state government is also taking action to deprive Haneef of the opportunity to earn a living by taking away his job:
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie says there are now moves to suspend Haneef without pay.
Since his arrest two weeks ago, Haneef has been on special paid leave from his Gold Coast hospital job.
“Queensland Health protocol is that an employee charged with criminal offences are suspended without pay,” Mr Beattie said.
“I’m advised that the department intends to follow that protocol in the case of Dr Haneef.
“He is to be issued with a notice to show cause as to why he should be suspended without pay.”
Did anyone ever hear the word “miscarriage of justice?” Don’t know how the law works in Australia, but I’d say both the state and federal governments are setting themselves up for a few huge lawsuits with potentially big numbers.
Hat tip to the as-ever intrepid Sol Salbe.