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Queensland: lawyer for Mohamed Haneef says it is unfair that anti-terrorism laws contain a presumption against bail.

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Monday 16 July 2007

Queensland: lawyer for Mohamed Haneef says it is unfair that anti-terrorism laws contain a presumption against bail


TONY EASTLEY: After a fortnight in custody, Dr Mohammed Haneef should know later today if he is going to be released on bail. The Indian-born, Gold Coast Registrar was charged at the weekend with providing support to a terrorist group.  


His bail application is new territory for Australia's three-year-old counter-terrorism laws. Unlike other criminal laws, they contain a presumption against bail. That means the doctor's lawyers have to prove it's safe to release him into the community.  


Karen Barlow reports. 


KAREN BARLOW: The case of the Indian-born Queensland doctor being arrested, and on Saturday, charged in connection with the failed UK bomb plot, has been new legal ground for many people. Among them is Dr Mohammed Haneef's lawyer, Peter Russo. 


PETER RUSSO: There's no room for grey, it is just black and white. And when you have laws that are black and white, the chances of a person being caught up in the system and being unfairly dealt with - and I am not referring directly here to my client's case, but I'm generalising - that there is an unfairness built into the legislation. 


KAREN BARLOW: Dr Mohammed Haneef's charge of providing support to a terrorist organisation relates to a mobile phone SIM card left in the UK last year.  


Announcing the charge on Saturday, the Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said the specific allegation involved recklessness, not intention.  


And while the doctor's first 12 days in custody were a test for the anti-terrorism powers of detention, Commissioner Keelty revealed the law's particular bail rules are now getting a work out.  


MICK KEELTY: There's a presumption under the act against bail, and that is, in normal cases people have a presumption to obtain bail. In cases under the counter-terrorism legislation the presumption is against bail.  


So, Dr Haneef will have to present to the court. 


KAREN BARLOW: Dr Mohammed Haneef's legal team has to prove exceptional circumstances to be released into the community, rather than the prosecutors proving he should stay in custody. 


Lawyer Peter Russo: 


PETER RUSSO: Yeah, well that's right. The presumption is that he should remain in custody. 


KAREN BARLOW: Do you believe the odds are against Dr Haneef? 


PETER RUSSO: Yes, when you've got legislation like that, of course they are. 


KAREN BARLOW: The Prime Minister John Howard stands by all elements of Australia's anti-terrorism laws and says they may need to be stronger. 


JOHN HOWARD: Well, I believe that the present laws are all necessary. I have an open mind as to whether they might need to be strengthened in the future. I won't talk about Haneef's case, but the present laws were all necessary, all of them, to the very last letter. If we need to make them stronger we will. 


KAREN BARLOW: The bail application was started in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Saturday and held over to today.  


Police are opposing bail on the basis there is a presumption against it, and because the investigation was initiated by Dr Haneef's actions in attempting to leave the country. 


TONY EASTLEY: Karen Barlow.