Friday, July 20, 2007

a game and its pawn

the rogues gallery - but they may well lose this one

I've begun to write a review of Aayan Hirsi Ali's The Caged Virgin, a book challenging multiculturalism and Western countries' response to Islam, a book requiring much reflection about the extent of religious tolerance, and the concept of cultural relativism, but the continually unfolding events and revelations around the detention of Mohamed Haneef have so incensed me that I feel the need to stay with this story.

Driving home tonight, I heard on Radio National's PM that the claim made in court by DPP prosecutor Clive Porritt, that Haneef's SIM card was found in the car that crashed into Glasgow Airport, was false, apparently. This was first broadcast in the morning, on AM, though I've gleaned hints of it here, a piece published yesterday.

The AM reporter Rafael Epstein only cites 'sources' in Britain and Oz for his info, but it's info that seems to be getting around, and I'm not inclined to trust the version of events being pedalled by the AFP and the DPP.

Let's note that Haneef has been charged with 'recklessly supporting a terrorist organisation'. Presumably the prosecution's case was largely based around the use that was made of that SIM card, or even the use that could have been made of it - though it seems to me flimsy enough that you can be prosecuted or arrested for giving your SIM card to anyone. It doesn't make you in any way responsible for that person's actions in using it. A SIM card isn't generally regarded as a weapon, after all.

The sources have it that the SIM card was found in Liverpool, in the possession of Sabeel Ahmed, Haneef's [distant] cousin. Sabeel Ahmed was arrested on the evening of the failed Glasgow attack, and charged [on very tenuous grounds, it seems] with failing to disclose information that could have prevented an act of terrorism.

If this is true, as seems likely, Haneef gave his SIM card to a person who, a year later, may have failed to disclose information about a possible terrorist attack. For this, Haneef, a doctor highly regarded by the hospital that employs him, is being held in solitary confinement for an indefinite period, has had his visa revoked, has been smeared by this government as an undesirable character, is to be deported when the charges are dropped [as they inevitably will be], and generally has the forces of the government, the opposition and the federal police arrayed against him. One wonders what Franz Kafka would have made of this scenario? You're not paranoid when everybody really is out to get you.

Fortunately, Haneef does have his supporters - in the blogospere and in the legal profession. There's a suitably outraged report at Road to Surfdom [and updated here], and the legal profession generally has been doing a mighty job of getting stuck into the government on this.

So the prosecution, in its unsuccessful case opposing bail for Haneef, seems to have made at least two false statements to the court. First, that Haneef's SIM card was found at the site of the Glasgow attack, and second, that Haneef had lived with two terrorist suspects during his stay in Liverpool, England. Haneef never lived with Sabeel Ahmed [who in any case isn't accused of being a terrorist, as related above], and he stayed with Kafeel Ahmed, Sabeel's brother, only briefly during two trips to Cambridge in 2004 - three years ago. So the case against Haneef appears to be considerably weaker than that considered by magistrate Jacqui Payne a few days ago, when she decided that the case against Haneef was weak enough to grant him bail, in spite of the atmosphere of anti-terrorist hysteria in which this is all being played out.

The prosecution's case appears to have completely unravelled, and the AFP have revealed themselves as quite incompetent in this matter, but this will not move the government a whit. Andrews, doubtless leaned on by the corpse who walks and little Johnnie, has stated that Haneef will never get his visa back. Again we're asked to believe that he has damning information against Haneef, information that the prosecution either doesn't have access to, or is withholding for fear of causing magistrates to faint in their chairs at the horror of it all. The opposition is playing a waiting game. Only Peter Beattie is speaking out. It's time the increasingly disappointing Rudd did too.

By the way, The Australian has pulled the transcript of Haneef's July 3 interview with the AFP from their website. Why? We all suspect the government to have had a hand in this. The blogosphere, however has stepped into the breach, and the transcript continues to be widely available online.

There's a rumour that Downer is currently discussing with the Indian government sending Haneef back to Bangalore. This would've been easier if bail had been posted for Haneef, in which case he would've been sent to Villawood, out of protection of the law, and left to the tender mercies of our immigration department. I suspect that Haneef's lawyers had a hand in bail not being posted. They want to ensure Haneef's complete exoneration and pummel the government to death on this one. What a fascinating game it is.



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