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Queensland: police get extra time to hold Gold Coast doctor; lawyer questions the length of time a terror suspect can be held.

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Tuesday 10 July 2007

Queensland: police get extra time to hold Gold Coast doctor; lawyer questions the length of time a terror suspect can be held


TONY EASTLEY: The Australian Federal Police now have extra time to examine material they've collected and to question Gold Coast doctor Mohammed Haneef, who has been held for more than a week now without charge, in connection with the foiled British terrorism plot.

While the Federal Government says it's a fair process, one legal expert has told AM there should be a limit placed on how long a suspect can be held without charge, as there is in the UK.

From Canberra, Peta Donald reports.

PETA DONALD: Dr Mohammed Haneef has spent another night in a Brisbane cell.

The Federal Police had applied to hold him for five more, before resuming their questions. Instead they say a magistrate, in a closed court, has given them another 48 hours, before the 12 hours they have left to question Dr Haneef starts ticking.

The Attorney-General Philip Ruddock:

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Something of the order of 120 gigabytes of computer data is being examined. And as I said at the weekend, that's the equivalent of 31,000 single page documents. So, it gives you an order of magnitude, and it's one of the reasons that the matter takes so long.

PETA DONALD: He also says police need the extra time to liaise with authorities in Britain, and that as Thursday's 6pm deadline approaches, police may well apply for a third time to hold Dr Haneef for longer.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: The sought an extension of time and that doesn't preclude them seeking further extensions of time.

PETA DONALD: Professor George Williams, from the University of New South Wales, is an expert on anti-terror laws. He argues there should be a limit on how long a suspect can be held without charge.

GEORGE WILLIAMS: I would like to see an outer limit. I think that other nations have seen that that is the way to go. And unfortunately when you don't have that, it leaves the person in a state of limbo where it could extend for what might ultimately be quite an unreasonable period of time.

PETA DONALD: Why do you think it is important that there is an outer limit?

GEORGE WILLIAMS: Otherwise the power can be exercised seemingly on a reasonable basis each time to give an extension, but when you add them all up, it becomes quite unreasonable.

PETA DONALD: Professor Williams points to the United Kingdom, where there's a 28-day limit. Mr Ruddock defends the Australian laws, in this case the Crimes Act, toughened up with anti-terror measures in 2004.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: In the United Kingdom, they are able to detain people for a period of questioning for a longer period of time than is available here.

PETA DONALD: But it's limited to 28 days.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, the period here is a limited period, which has to be extended by a judicial process. It's limited by the reasonableness and the evidence.

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, speaking there with Peta Donald.

We did have the Police Commissioner Mick Keelty lined up to speak straight after that story, but we hope to bring him to you a little later in the program.