London terror charge against doctor dropped

The Baltimore Sun

LONDON -- An Indian doctor in Australia was freed yesterday after the government dropped a terrorism charge against him arising from the botched bombing plot here last month.

The doctor, Mohammed Haneef, had been in custody since July 2. He had been charged with giving the subscriber identity module, or SIM card, from his cell phone to a "terrorist organization."

Australian police said that organization consisted of Kafeel and Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, brothers who are prime suspects in the failed bombings in London and Glasgow. Haneef acknowledged giving the SIM card to Sabeel Ahmed in July 2006, when he lived in Britain.

Australia's chief prosecutor described the terrorism charge as a "mistake" and said erroneous statements that prosecutors had made in court were based on information provided by the Australian federal police, who conducted the investigation.

"There was no reasonable chance of conviction," Damien Bugg, the Australian director of public prosecutions, said at a news conference yesterday.

The chief of the federal police, Mick Keelty, declined to apologize to Haneef and said police had acted "professionally."

Prime Minister John Howard sought to distance himself from the collapse of the case, saying it was up to the police and the prosecution to sort out.

Among the "mistakes," said Bugg, was that the SIM, a chip that contains the phone number and personal identity information of the phone owner, had not been found in the vehicle that burst into flames at the Glasgow airport, as the prosecution had said, but in the possession of Sabeel Ahmed, who was several hundred miles away. Also, contrary to earlier police and prosecution statements, Haneef had not lived with the Ahmed brothers, Bugg said yesterday.

It was in large measure because of those erroneous links that Australia's Immigration Department revoked Haneef's visa. Yesterday, Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said he would review that decision and, until then, Haneef was free to live where he wished but had to call the Immigration Department daily.

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