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Freed Terrorism Suspect Feels 'Victimized' by Australia


An Indian doctor has arrived home from Australia after charges against him linked to the failed car bomb attacks in Britain were dropped. Mohamed Haneef says he understands why he was initially detained in Australia, but says his detention went on for too long. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

In an interview aired on Australian television before his departure, Mohamed Haneef said he was relieved to have been cleared of terrorism offenses, and he strongly denied any links to extremism.

Asked in the paid interview whether he had ever been a supporter of a terrorist group, the 27-year-old Indian doctor said it was not in his nature to ever support or be involved in such activities.

He said he understood why he was questioned - a second cousin of his was allegedly involved in the unsuccessful June 30 attack on Glasgow airport in Scotland, and Haneef's mobile phone SIM card was found in Britain during the investigation into the plot. But Haneef is angry that he was held for almost four weeks, when the case against him was so weak.

He was allowed to leave Australia several days ago and has arrived home in the Indian city of Bangalore. On his arrival, he told well-wishers he had been "victimized" by Australian officials

"It's an emotional moment for me, being with my family and at home," Haneef said. "And with you all here after a long wait of 27 days, going through the trauma of being a victim as I was, being victimized by the Australian authorities."

Haneef was charged with supporting an extremist organization by giving the mobile phone card to his relative in Britain. Australian prosecutors asserted that the phone card was found inside the jeep that was used in the attack on Glasgow airport. In fact, the card was discovered in the English city of Liverpool, several hundred kilometers away.

Terrorism charges against the 27-year-old Indian national were dropped last Friday by Australia's chief prosecutor, who studied the evidence and said a "mistake" had been made in formally charging Haneef.

Haneef's working visa was canceled after he was charged with terrorism offences. He says he would consider returning to work in Australia in the future if the work permit were reinstated, but that does not seem likely.

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews is not budging. He says Haneef's departure from Australia - which Andrews calls hasty - has only heightened his suspicions.

"Nothing that I saw in the interview with Dr. Haneef changed my mind as to the suspicions and doubts that I had about the matter," Andrews said.

Opposition politicians are calling on Andrews to resign, and for the government to order a public inquiry into the way Haneef was treated.

But Andrews says he based his decision on "secret" information that might be made public later. And Prime Minister John Howard said Monday that the government "will not be apologizing to Dr. Haneef."

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