Sydney, Apr 25 : Former Australian immigration minister Kevin Andrews and the country's Police Commissioner Mick Keelty are likely to escape public grilling at the inquiry into the prosecution of Dr Mohamed Haneef of Indian origin who was falsely linked to terrorists and jailed for a few weeks in Australia, before being found innocent.
The key players in the investigation and detention of Dr Haneef would give evidence in interviews to inquiry head John Clarke QC, rather than at public hearings. The Rudd government-ordered inquiry will begin in Canberra next week, reported The Australian.
According to the paper, the move of allowing the two men to escape public grilling will prevent Dr Haneef's lawyers from cross-examining those giving evidence to Clarke about the arrest, prosecution and detention of the Indian-born doctor who has been keeping himself in India since his return after being released from Australian jail.
About the prospect of evidence being given in interviews rather than at a public hearing, a spokeswoman for the inquiry said: "That may well be the case, but it is the inquirer's intention to make as much of those proceedings public by way of publishing transcripts and things like that. What Clarke has said is that there will be opportunities for public input and for the proceedings of the inquiry to be as public or made public without necessarily being hearings in the manner of a royal commission or in a courtroom."
Dr Haneef, his lawyers and other legal observers have unsuccessfully called on federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland to grant commission-of-inquiry powers to Clarke, to ensure documents are released and witnesses are compelled to give evidence and face cross-examination. In March Dr Haneef had said that he was concerned that the "truth won't be revealed" in his case unless the powers were granted.
Clarke will outline the conduct of his inquiry at a preliminary hearing next Wednesday. But sources have told The Australian it is unlikely that substantive evidence to the inquiry - including that of Keelty and Andrews - will be taken in public.
McClelland's office last night declined to comment.
Dr Haneef was arrested at Brisbane airport last July after British police tipped off its investigating agency AFP that the doctor was linked to the failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow. He was charged with recklessly assisting a terrorist organisation. The basis for the charge was that he gave his second-cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, his telephone SIM card when he left Britain. The case collapsed after it was discovered that the card had not been found in the car, as was first claimed.