Sydney, Mar 3: Indian doctor Dr Mohamed Haneef"s lawyer has said the government inquiry into the case needed the coercive powers to compel witnesses to testify, or it would become a “toothless tiger". Advocate Peter Russo said that anyone found to be involved in any wrongdoing during the inquiry of the case against his client was unlikely to be honest.
“It is reasonable to assume that where there has been government error, those in error are likely to be embarrassed, ashamed, some will be in self-protect mode and some will go to ground," Russo writes in an article published on NEWS.com.au. Last year Russo successfully fought to have terror charges against Dr Haneef dropped, after the latter was erroneously found linked with terrorists. “It is not realistic to expect that such persons are going to voluntarily give an outpouring of candour, particularly if the impeached conduct involves potential government impropriety. It is also unlikely that such people are going to even acknowledge that things went wrong," writes Russo in the article.
Russo's article expands on concerns expressed by Dr Haneef last month that the inquiry would need “coercive powers". “I am very pleased to hear that there is going to be an inquiry. Hopefully it will take the right course. I think there should be powers to compel people to give evidence, otherwise the truth won't be revealed," said Dr Haneef.
Russo added that former NSW Supreme Court judge John Clarke, who will head the inquiry, needed coercive powers to be able to receive all relevant evidence and testimony. “Coercive powers are needed to make sure that all relevant documentary evidence can be compelled to be produced and all relevant witnesses can be compelled to attend and be required to answer all questions which are properly within the terms of reference," Russo said, and added: “Without such powers, the people who should be answering the questions are well within their rights, if they choose, to take the standpoint taken by a petulant child who does not want to do something: 'You can't make me, so there"."
Last July, Dr Haneef was arrested at Brisbane Airport and was held in custody for 12 days before being charged in the wake of the foiled terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow. The charges of recklessly supporting a terrorist group were based on him giving a phone SIM card to one of the accused in Britain, a second cousin, eight months before the attacks.
The charges were, however, later dropped.