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New South Wales: DPP criticises investigation methods used by ASIO and AFP in detaining terror suspect Izhar Ul-Haque; lawyer and academic comment on the case.

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Monday 12 November 2007

New South Wales: DPP criticises investigation methods used by ASIO and AFP in detaining terror suspect Izhar Ul-Haque; lawyer and academic comment on the case


MARK C OLVIN: Grossly improper, unlawful and deceptive. 


Just some of the scathing words that a judge used today to describe the behaviour of ASIO and Federal Police officers in the case of the Sydney terror suspect Izhar Ul-Haque.  


The Department of Public Prosecutions this morning dropped the charge that Mr Ul-Haque was facing, of training with a terrorist organisation, after a Supreme Court judge ruled that interviews with him were inadmissible.  


Justice Michael Adams said the interrogations were unreliable because the investigators had engaged in false imprisonment and kidnapping to get the answers that they wanted. 


It's at least the third high profile terrorism case to be thrown out by a court because of problems with the investigation.  


Ashley Hall reports. 


ASHLEY HALL: How far to push an interrogation is a question police officers face every day.  


In the case of Izhar Ul-Haque, that push became a shove, and it compromised the prosecutor's case against the former medical student.  


The New South Wales Supreme Court Judge, Michael Adams slammed the behaviour of officers from ASIO and the Federal Police, accusing them of breaking the law, by kidnapping and detaining Mr Ul-Haque, forcing him to give the answers they wanted to hear.  


Once the interviews underpinning the case were thrown out of court, the prosecutors declined to proceed.  


Outside the court, Mr Ul-Haque's lawyer, Adam Houda described the case as a moronic prosecution.  


ADAM HOUDA: From the beginning this was no more than a political show trial designed to justify the billions of dollars spent on counter-terrorism. 


ASHLEY HALL: It's not the first time a terrorism investigation has faltered because of the tactics of the investigating officers.  


And according to Andrew Lynch, the director of the Gilbert and Tobin Centre of Public Law's Terrorism Project, it won't be the last.  


ANDREW LYNCH: The courts are throwing a lot of this stuff out because their view is that the admissions are tainted by the circumstances in which the evidence has been gathered. 


ASHLEY HALL: Professor Lynch believes Australia's anti-terrorism laws have blurred the line between the tasks of intelligence officers and law enforcement officers.  


ANDREW LYNCH: We are talking about people being met at public train stations and asked to get into a car and driven off to a park at night to be questioned and that's not the kind of policing I think any of us would favour, so I would suggest that perhaps there needs to be an adjustment in the policing practices as to how evidence is gathered. 


ASHLEY HALL: But not everybody shares that view.  


CARL UNGERER: There is a disconnect here between the promotion of national security on one side and the sort of, strict black letter law interpretation that the judge seems to have put upon this case. 


ASHLEY HALL: Dr Carl Ungerer, is a former Intelligence Officer who's now working as a lecturer in international relations at the University of Queensland.  


CARL UNGERER: It's a bit rich to say the least that the blame gets placed upon ASIO and the AFP and the conduct of this particular investigation. 


ASHLEY HALL: Dr Ungerer wants Australia's anti-terrorism laws broadened so investigators have greater freedom.  


CARL UNGERER: Our agencies here in Australia need to be given every opportunity to find and prosecute those individuals that would seek to do harm to the Australian population. 


ASHLEY HALL: How useful though, is that information if it has been acquired via methods that ensure that information is not necessarily true? 


CARL UNGERER: The point is that acquiring this sort of information in difficult circumstances in foreign countries can be a very tough task. 


ASHLEY HALL: The Labor Leader Kevin Rudd has used the comments by the judge to back his call for a judicial inquiry into the investigation of Mohamed Haneef, the Indian born doctor who was accused of providing support for a terrorist organisation before the case against him collapsed. 


The Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says he won't comment on the conduct of the ASIO officers, in the absence of a full investigation. 


PHILIP RUDDOCK: If there is to be any judgments drawn about the conduct of others in relation to these proceedings, it would come through the proper investigations by the body that is set up to deal with the security agency for instance. 


ASHLEY HALL: Civil libertarians say the case shows there's a problem with ASIO, which could be fixed by setting up an independent monitoring system.  


But Professor Andrew Lynch says the case shows the courts are capable of standing up for the civil liberties of the accused.  


ANDREW LYNCH: We should take a lot of heart from the fact that the courts are really playing their role and are not simply deferring to these agencies of the executive and are really holding them to account. 


MARK COLVIN: Professor Andrew Lynch of the of the Gilbert and Tobin Centre for Public Law at the University of New South Wales ending Ashley Hall's report.