Australian police charge Indian over UK terror plot

Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef, 27, allegedly gave his mobile phone SIM card to one of the suspects accused in the failed attack.

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July 14, 2007 06:54
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Australian police charged an Indian doctor Saturday with supporting a terrorist organization by allegedly giving his mobile phone SIM card to one of the suspects accused in the failed British bomb plots. Muhammad Haneef, 27, is the second person to be charged over the botched attacks on London and Glasgow on June 29 and 30. The other is Bilal Abdullah, who is being held in London on charges of conspiring to set off explosions. Haneef "has been charged with providing support to a terrorist organization," police said in a statement. The maximum penalty is 15 years in prison. Australian police arrested Haneef, who moved to Australia from Britain last year, as he tried to leave the eastern city of Brisbane on a one-way ticket to India on July 2. British police tracked a SIM card in the possession of one of the men accused in the failed Britain bomb attacks to Haneef, and alerted their Australian counterparts. Media reports later identified the man as Sabeel Ahmed, Haneef's distant cousin and former housemate in Britain, who is being questioned by British police over the foiled plot. Federal Police Chief Mick Keelty said Haneef had been "reckless about some of the support he provided to that group, in particular the provision of his SIM card for the use of the group." Official documents cited by The Australian newspaper on Friday said Haneef gave the SIM card to Ahmed before he moved to Australia so that his cousin could take advantage of free minutes left on his mobile phone plan. "The specific allegation involves recklessness rather than intention," Keelty told reporters in the capital, Canberra. Nevertheless, Keelty said police would oppose bail when Haneef appears before the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Saturday. The police chief said Haneef would be prosecuted in Australia unless British police "have any evidence in the UK that would sustain an extradition application." A suspect can only be extradited to another country if that country has enough evidence to charge the person with an offense. Prime Minister John Howard urged caution in Haneef's case, saying he was still entitled to the presumption of innocence. "But without commenting on his particular circumstances, all of this is a reminder that terrorism is a global threat," he told reporters in southern Tasmania state. In Britain, the office of the prime minister, the Home Office, the Foreign Office and London's Metropolitan Police all declined to comment on the charges when reached early Saturday. Haneef is the second person to be formally charged over the failed British plot. The other is Bilal Abdullah, who is accused of conspiring to set off explosions. Haneef, who came to Australia from Britain last year to work in a hospital on Queensland state's Gold Coast, is also related to another suspect, Kafeel Ahmed. British prosecutors allege Kafeel Ahmed crashed a Jeep Cherokee loaded with gas canisters and gasoline into the Glasgow airport then set himself on fire on June 30. Haneef reportedly shared a house with the Ahmed brothers in the British city of Liverpool for up to two years before moving to Australia, and remained in contact with the pair by phone and online messaging. Police have also said they suspect a possible link between Haneef and Abdullah. Haneef has been held in custody since his arrest at Brisbane airport on July 2. He says he was rushing back to India to see his wife and newborn daughter, born June 26. Police have said they do not believe Haneef's explanation. Police began interrogating Haneef on Friday afternoon after withdrawing a court application to extend his detention without charge beyond Friday. Under Australia's counterterror laws, police can only hold a suspect without charge with a court order. Haneef was charged early Saturday after being questioned in hourlong blocks through Friday afternoon and early Saturday morning, his lawyer Peter Russo told reporters in Brisbane. Russo said his client was extremely upset by the charge and would apply for bail.


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