Haneef's lawyer to lead rally against Oz Govt

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Melbourne, Nov 16: Peter Russo, lawyer for Indian born doctor Mohamed Haneef, will lead a rally against the Howard Government in Brisbane on Saturday. The community rally, at Queens Park in Brisbane's CBD, has been organised by a coalition involving green groups, refugee advocates, indigenous people and the peace movement.

Russo is expected to deliver the key address about the implications of Dr Haneef's case for the justice system.

Rally organiser, Mark Gillespie, said the rally would bring together a diverse range of voices.

"We are not very happy with the Howard government," he said.

"From day one they've pushed a divisive and regressive agenda and now they are trying to sneak back into power by demonising one or other section of the community," Gillespie said.

The rally is expected to start at 11a.m. (AEST).

Meanwhile, lawyers of Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews have argues that Andrews was right to cancel Haneef's visa on character grounds, because the Migration Act "sets a very low bar" to allow for wide ministerial discretion.

Appealing the decision on Thursday, Commonwealth Solicitor-General David Bennett argued that the Migration Act required the minister to have only a "reasonable suspicion" that someone was of bad character because of their association with alleged criminals.

"Not only is it a very low threshold, not necessarily involving any defect of character, it is one which can be satisfied if the minister reasonably suspects," he said.

"The purpose of this section (of the act) is to confer a very wide discretion on the minister."

A lawyer acting for Dr Haneef, Darryl Rangiah, said Andrews' interpretation of the law was "harsh, arbitrary and unjust".

The Migration Act was described as "draconian legislation" that did not properly define the character test that should be applied in visa cases or the meaning of "association", he added.

One of the three judges hearing the appeal, Justice Mark Weinberg, said that under Andrews' interpretation, it was impossible for someone to have a finding of bad character against them overturned, even if evidence had come to light that proved their innocence.

He said the act created "a hurdle that can't be jumped over".

The full bench of the Federal Court reserved its decision on Andrews appeal against an earlier ruling that he was wrong to cancel Haneef's work visa.

In August, Justice Jeffrey Spender ruled that Andrews made a "jurisdictional error" in cancelling the visa because of Dr Haneef's "association" with British terror suspects.

Justice Spender said Andrews should have used the fact that Dr Haneef had been charged with providing support to a terrorist organisation and was a person of interest to British authorities to justify the decision.

Lawyers for Dr Haneef tried to have potentially damaging Government emails admitted as evidence to the hearing yesterday.

The full bench set aside this application to deal with Mr Andrews' appeal. No date has been set for the handing down of their decision, theage.com.au reported.

Should the full bench once again rule in Dr Haneef's favour, Andrews is expected to appeal to the High Court.

ANI>

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