Australian police hit back over arrest of bomb plot suspect

Vikram Dodd and Barbara McMahon in Sydney
The Guardian
Jul. 30, 2007

· Scotland Yard accused of sending wrong information
· Freed man tells of trauma suffered during custody

Australian police yesterday said they held an innocent doctor as a suspect in the plot to bomb London and Glasgow because they were initially sent wrong information by Scotland Yard.

Mohammed Haneef arrived home in Bangalore, India, yesterday to a hero's welcome from crowds waiting at the airport. He held a brief press conference outside his home, saying: "It's an emotional moment for me being with my family and home after a long wait of 27 days. I'm going through the trauma of being a victim. I was being victimised by the Australian authorities and the Australian federal police."

He thanked his legal team and his supporters around the world.

Earlier, in an Australian television interview, he spoke of the trauma he had suffered and said he would turn his relatives in if he suspected them of terrorist involvement. Dr Haneef, 27, is a cousin of one man charged with involvement in the UK, Sabeel Ahmed, and Kafeel Ahmed, who is seriously ill in hospital after suffering extensive burns in the alleged car bomb attack at Glasgow airport.

Australian police have been criticised for their handling of the case and yesterday the commissioner of the Australian federal police (AFP), Mick Keelty, hit back. He said Scotland Yard at first told AFP investigators that Dr Haneef's mobile phone Sim card had been recovered from the Jeep allegedly used by Kafeel Ahmed on June 30. In fact the Sim card had been found hundreds of miles away in Liverpool, in the possession of Sabeel Ahmed.

&Mr Keelty told the Sydney Morning Herald: "There is a lot of confusion at the beginning of any complex investigation ... errors in the investigation came to us from the UK ... we're all under time pressures."

He also said: "Haneef attempted to leave the country. If we had let him go we would have been accused of letting a terrorist escape our shores." Scotland Yard declined to comment or rebut Mr Keelty's comments saying only: "We're not discussing it."

The junior doctor, who lived in Britain before moving to Australia, had been charged with recklessly providing support to a terrorist organisation by giving his mobile phone Sim card to his cousin Sabeel. Prosecutors had wrongly claimed the Sim card was found in the burning Jeep in Glasgow and that Dr Haneef had shared a home with the two alleged co-conspirators.

In Britain, another man detained as a terrorist, after false information from the British authorities was passed to foreign officials, has spoken out. Bisher al-Rawi spent four years in US custody, first in Afghanistan and then in Guantánamo Bay, after false information was passed by MI5 to the CIA. The Guardian first reported that Mr Rawi was arrested in the Gambia in 2002, before being rendered to two alleged torture camps in Bagram and then on to Guantánamo.

He told the Observer and the Mail on Sunday he had been helping MI5 keep track of Abu Qatada, a cleric suspected by western intelligence of ties to al-Qaida, while he was supposedly on the run in the UK. Mr Rawi said association with the cleric led to his detention by the US, and that MI5 failed to help him for years.

In an interview, Mr Rawi said he had helped Abu Qatada to get a London flat after he went on the run fearing arrest after 9/11. He said he acted as a messenger between MI5 and Abu Qatada and met security service agents in a McDonald's on Kensington High Street.

He said he was ill-treated on the flight from the Gambia to Afghanistan: "They put a harness [over his clothes], shackled and cuffed me again, fixing the chains through the harness. They forced me on to a stretcher and tied me to it so tightly I could hardly move at all. I felt trussed like an animal."

In the Afghan prison, he said, he sat shivering in his pitch-black cell for three days. After a fortnight he was taken to Bagram, where the interrogation began. On the journey there, he said, they "really beat me up".

· This article was amended to remove the statement that Mr Rawi was paid for the interview that appeared in the Observer and the Mail on Sunday. This was incorrect.

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