Saturday, July 14, 2007

Haneef on Terrorism Charges

Dr Mohammed Haneef, a doctor from the Gold Coast (Queensland) has been charged with providing material support (a mobile phone SIM card) to a terrrorist organisation. He has been charged by Australian Federal Police under the Crimes Act.

Dr Haneef was held without charge for 12 days, and there had been increasing media attention on his detention without charge. AFP Commissioner Keelty has defended the time, saying "The detention of Dr Haneef, whilst attracting considerable media attention, is something that the organisation and certainly myself believed was necessary in order to afford everybody the best opportunity to understand what has occurred." Perhaps this charge enables the process to continue without having to hold Dr Haneef without charge.

On Friday, after a question from the media, Prime Minister John Howard said he was relaxed and comfortable about the time of Dr Haneef's detention without charge. Civil libertarians say the time is outrageous, and that Dr Haneef will not be able to get a fair trial (because of the media attention to the case) But the media has not detailed, or preempted evidence that might be used. They have concentrated on his detention without charge, reasonably so, I believe.

It is important, at this stage, that they do not speculate or produce their own, non-legal, case before any trial. Tabloid media, in particular, are prone to doing this, but trial by media would be wrong. The "public interest" test must not be used to deny due legal process; and the facts, evidence and analysis could be reported during and after any trial.