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Australia police get more time to question doctor

Reuters | July 9, 2007
Rob Taylor

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian judge ruled on Monday that police should have another 48 hours to question an Indian doctor held over failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow as police widened their investigation to India.

The judge in Brisbane approved the extension of a detention warrant allowing Australian authorities to hold Queensland hospital doctor Mohamed Haneef, suspected of having links to the United Kingdom plot, until 6 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Wednesday.

"The extension will allow for the analysis of material obtained in the course of the investigation by joint counter-terrorism teams," an Australian Federal Police (AFP) spokesman told Reuters.

"The extension of time will also allow for inquiries and analysis of material to be conducted in overseas jurisdictions, including the UK."

An AFP agent had traveled to India to work with local authorities there on material seized during a series of raids across Australia, the spokesman said.

Haneef, 27, is one of six Indian doctors to be questioned in Australia over the suspected al Qaeda-linked plot in Britain. The others have already been released.

Two car bombs primed to explode in London's bustling theatre and nightclub district were discovered the day before a jeep crashed into the terminal building at Glasgow airport on June 30 and burst into flames.

Haneef was detained a week ago while trying to leave Australia with a one-way ticket to India. His family in India said he was innocent and had planned only to visit his wife and newborn daughter.


Australian police are examining more than 30,000 documents seized during searches in three states, including files on Haneef's laptop computer and mobile phone Sim cards left with the alleged UK bombers. British police arrived last week to help.

Once the detention warrant -- already renewed once -- expires, Australian and British police then have 12 hours more to question Haneef under anti-terrorism laws allowing a suspect to be detained without charge with the approval of a judge.

Haneef's lawyer Peter Russo said earlier on Monday that the job of defending his client was being complicated by the reluctance of Australian authorities to hand him details of the allegations leading to Haneef's detention.

"I was provided with some material that I had requested on Friday night. There might be some more material being made available today," he said.

Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said Haneef appeared to have been in a great hurry to leave the country after the foiled UK attacks, beyond the birth of a new daughter.

"Certainly the appearance was that his intention (was) to leave with speed," Ruddock said. "The further explanations that have been offered may be reasonable, but they may also be a cover for something else."

Ruddock defended the operation of the anti-terror laws amid accusations from civil liberties groups and a former High Court chief justice that they were too draconian.

"When you're questioning people and you don't know where the questioning is going yourself, it seems very novel to involve defense counsel in assisting you with your inquiries," Ruddock said.

On Sunday Prime Minister John Howard fast-tracked changes to Australia's immigration screening which match intelligence data with a person's travel and financial history to determine if they might be a security threat to Australia.


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