ID :
Tue, 07/29/2008 - 11:16
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Setback to Haneef as inquiry decides not to reveal evidence By Natasha Chaku

Melbourne, July 28 (PTI) The truth behind the bungled case of Indian doctor Mohammad Haneef, wrongly accused on terror charges in Australia, may never come to light as the head of a government-ordered inquiry Monday said much of the "sensitive" evidence before it cannot be made public as itcould harm diplomatic ties with the UK.

Former NSW Supreme Court judge John Clarke said he has not sought the declassification of the documents because he believed the hurdles would be "virtually insurmountable" and said it will for the Australian Government to decide how andin what time frame does it make the content public.

"Faced with the need to advance the investigation, which has already been significantly delayed, I felt that I had no choice but to advise the Attorney-General that the inquiry will be unable to proceed effectively unless it is able to withhold publication of a large part of the proceedings,"Clarke said.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, "recognising the difficulties facing the inquiry has accepted my advice," he said, admitting that the step will disappoint the 28-year-oldIndian doctor and others.

The Australian police had received severe flak for its handling of the case of Haneef, who was kept in detention for three weeks following his arrest at Brisbane airport on July 2 last year in connection with the failed London car bombings,only to be absolved later of terror charges.

When the inquiry began in February, Clarke had asked for powers of a royal commission in the event of the agenciesfailing to cooperate fully with his inquiry.

But the former judge now said he will not seek such powers to conduct the rest of the inquiry as he did not believe the limitations on the public disclosure of sensitivematerial can be overcome by the move.

"During the past three months, I have been given a vast amount of relevant material by the Commonwealth and state departments and agencies with involvement in the matters under investigation and also by Haneef's representatives," Clarkesaid.

"A very high proportion of the material carries a security classification which limits the extent to which it can be shown to other people or disclosed generally," he wasquoted as saying by a daily 'The Australian'.

Clarke said he knew his decision "will cause a great deal of dissatisfaction, not least on the part of Haneef and his legal representatives, but my fundamental duty is to examine fully the matters covered by my terms of reference andto provide the Government with a comprehensive report.

The originating agency alone has the authority to remove the classification and the inquiry has not been givenauthority to publish the classified material, he said.

Publishing some information without the agreement of UK authorities will seriously damage international relationshipbetween Australia and the UK, Clarke said.

He said he will continue his inquiry as planned, but statements, transcripts of interviews and related documentswill not be posted on the inquiry's website.

"This I intend to do - it will then be for Government to decide how and in what time frame to make its contents publicand to act on my recommendations," he added.

Haneef, who hails from Bangalore, was charged with recklessly helping a terrorist organisation after his SIM cardwas found with a cousin linked to the failed UK car bombings.

Despite the charges being revoked, the Australian government revoked his work visa on "character ground" forcing him to return to Bangalore. However, the judiciary quashed thegovernment directive and restored his visa.