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Queensland: lawyer challenges detention of Mohamed Haneef for nine days without charge.

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Wednesday 11 July 2007

Queensland: lawyer challenges detention of Mohamed Haneef for nine days without charge


MARK COLVIN: As we go to air, lawyers for a Queensland doctor being held in connection with the UK terror plots are in Court trying to get their client freed. 


The Indian-born doctor, Mohammed Haneef, has now been in custody for nine days, and the Federal Police are applying to detain him for another three days. 


Dr Haneef hasn't been charged with any offence, nor have police interviewed him since last Tuesday. 


Police want more time to hold him while they trawl through computer data running to thousands of pages and liaise with British authorities. 


PM 's Kathryn Roberts is outside the Brisbane Magistrates Court and joins me now. 


Kathryn, I believe that the deadline for detention has just run out, in terms of the previous order, so the police are in there trying to get it extended. How long have they been in for, and how long is it likely to last? 


KATHRYN ROBERTS: Well the Court has been in session Mark now for just on two hours. Going into the Court, Dr Haneef's lawyer, Peter Russo, indicated that it would be several hours. He said two would be promising, or optimistic, so we could be in for somewhat of a wait yet.  


Now the media isn't privy to what's going on inside the Court because it is a closed session. Going into the Court this afternoon, Dr Hannef's lawyer, Peter Russo, indicated that he would be challenging this application by the AFP, which is an application to extend Dr Haneef's detention for a further three days. And this is what he had to say, going into the Court this afternoon: 


PETER RUSSO: The difficulty with it is that we don't know why they claim they need to detain, and if a reasonable person looks at it and says, "Well, yeah, that's a valid reason", then we can give our client certain advice and take it from there. 


MARK COLVIN: Dr Haneef's lawyer Peter Russo.  


Now, as I understand it, the police would prefer to get blocks of four day extensions, but this time they only got this 48 hours.  


Do we know why and what the arguments are in terms of 48 or 72 or whatever? 


KATHRYN ROBERTS: Well the AFP has been reasonably quiet on this, most of the information is actually coming from Dr Haneef's lawyer, Peter Russo, not from the AFP.  


Peter Russo indicated that on Monday night the AFP had sought five more days detention, but only received 48 hours from the Magistrate. Now that takes this up to 6:10 tonight, about now, and that's the so-called dead time. When that runs out, police have a further 12 hours on top of that in interview time remaining.  


Now Mark, that doesn't necessarily mean from 6:10 tonight, until 6:10 tomorrow morning. There are allowances for things like meals, and sleep time, and so forth. 


MARK COLVIN: But it also, I mean they can chose not to start interrogating him this evening at all. They can choose to go on putting off the interrogation? 


KATHRYN ROBERTS: It's not entirely clear exactly how this particular part of the law operates. There's some debate about whether or not the 6:10 deadline, the questioning time, starts at 6:10 or whether there is also a stoppage, so to speak, in the dead time, during a Court session like this. 


So that is, perhaps the dead time can actually be extended somewhat because they are in Court actually arguing the case. So the AFP hasn't been very clear on this, so it's all a very new area of the law for those of us outside. 


MARK COLVIN: Now what is Peter Russo, the lawyer, telling the media about the state of health, the state of mind, of his client? 


KATHRYN ROBERTS: Well, Peter Russo has visited the watch house again today. He's been in touch with Dr Haneef or visited Dr Haneef every day over the last few days. 


Today, the latest was that he had been able to speak to his wife in India, that was a monitored phone call, and Peter Russo indicated that that had lifted Dr Haneef's spirit. Otherwise, he says, he is in reasonably good health, coping considerably well given the circumstances. 


MARK COLVIN: Does he say how much he has been able to talk to him about?  


KATHRYN ROBERTS: Most of the conversation, he seems to indicate, has revolved around procedural and administrative issues relating to the applications before the Court, and also running chores for Dr Haneef, sending messages to family and those sorts of things. 


MARK COLVIN: And how is the Federal Government defending the length of detention without trial? 


KATHRYN ROBERTS: As you may recall Mark, there was quite a bit of criticism yesterday from various parts of the legal fraternity: the Law Council, civil libertarians.  


The Attorney-General, Phillip Ruddock, has come out today and indicated once again that this is a complex international investigation, police are trawling through 31,000 pages of information that need to be analyzed, and he has indicated that he feels that the law is appropriate, and that there is sufficient judicial oversight, and this is what he had to say today. 


PHILLIP RUDDOCK: This is not a person being detained indefinitely. It is a person who is detained because a judicial officer has determined on the basis of the material submitted. The proper inquiries are being pursued, and there is a proper basis at the end of that process for questioning. 


MARK COLVIN: The Attorney-General, Phillip Ruddock. And before that, we heard our correspondent in Brisbane, Kathryn Roberts.