Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Haneef's internet chat - more evasion and shiftiness

This should have been the big one, the revelation that made me eat my civil liberties hat and run wailing to the warm (and perhaps too close, too long) embrace of Kevin Andrews and John Howard. A "transcript"(1) of a conversation between Haneef and his brother, Shuaib. This was one of the key factors considered by Andrews in cancelling Haneef's visa.

Here is the "transcript," which isn't actually a transcript, but a re-construction put together from "based on evidence released today by Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews"(2)

Shuaib: Nothing has been found out about you. When will you be getting out?
Haneef: Today.
Shuiab: Have you permission to take leave? What have you told the (Gold Coast) hospital?
Haneef: I told them my baby was born in an emergency caesarean.
Shuaib: Tell them that you have to (leave) as you have a daughter born. Do not tell them anything else.(3)

The source article makes some vague references to "Auntie" and the use of Haneef's phone, but without context these are meaningless. And that's all we're to be given. There is more, apparently, but we have to trust the authorities who have lied, mislead and bungled at every turn in this case. Bugger that.

So, back to the "transcript." First query - why just a five line extract from a longer conversation? What we are given, presented in the light of the swirling panic about terrorism, looks incriminating. Of course it does. It is meant to. Andrews has his neck on the block, and he's not going to jeopardise his political future by playing fair. He might be paranoid, or he might be disingenuous, but either way he's presenting the information in the way that puts the best light on his blundering conduct.

What if Shuaib, immediately prior to the the "Nothing has been found out about you," had said, "I asked Firdous if she knew when you were coming home, and mum, and auntie ..."? This would render "But nothing has been found out about you" completely innocent. And the rest of the conversation immediately becomes munadane. His brother is asking when he is coming home. Haneef tells him it is today. Brother Shuaib wisely tells him not to give too much information to the hospital, because you should always keep your reasons simple and not be too dramatic.

This is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of what we have been given. Without seeing more, we can't judge if it is correct, but why would Andrews only release this fragment if the rest of it did not strengthen his case?

Second, much more important, point - Shuaib is, as far as we know, suspected of nothing and has been accused of nothing. The suggestion is that he is involved in the plot. So the guilt by association that was applied to Haneef is now spread to his entire family. Without any evidence to back this up, this is just another calumny attached to the family by a snivelling, hopeless government, trying to look tough and decisive.
1 - "Alleged webchat between Mohamed Haneef and his brother," unattributed article on news.com.au, July 31, 2007 (http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22166791-2,00.html)
2 -
ibid.
3- ibid.

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