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Australia charges doctor in bomb case

- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2007

SYDNEY, Australia (Agence France-Presse) — Police said today they have charged an Indian doctor, purportedly connected to failed car bombings in Britain, with supporting terrorism.

Dr. Mohammed Haneef, 27, has been in custody in Australia since he was arrested trying to leave the country earlier this month.

"He has been charged with providing support to a terrorist organization contrary to Section 102.7(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995," Australian Federal Police said.

He is expected to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court later today.

News reports said the charges include accusations that Dr. Haneef provided a cell phone SIM card to a member of a terrorist organization.

Dr. Haneef is a cousin of one of the men suspected of crashing a burning car into Glasgow airport in Scotland earlier this month.

He was arrested July 2 on a tip-off from British police in the eastern city of Brisbane after seven persons, including at least four foreign doctors, were detained in Britain over three failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow.

Pressure has been building on Australian police to charge or release Dr. Haneef from custody under counterterrorism laws.

Officers late yesterday withdrew a request to a court to extend the period they could hold him without charge, giving them 12 hours to question him.

Dr. Haneef has told police that he was leaving the country because he was on his way to Bangalore in southern India to visit his wife, who had just given birth.

Before moving to Australia, he is thought to have shared an apartment in Liverpool, England, with his cousin and another suspect being held in Britain over the failed car bombs, local news reports have said.

The reports have also said Dr. Haneef was thought to have been arrested after his cell phone's SIM card was found in the possession of one of the British suspects, Dr. Sabeel Ahmed.

Official documents cited by the Australian newspaper yesterday said Dr. Haneef gave the SIM card to Dr. Ahmed before he moved to Australia from Britain last September so his cousin could take advantage of free minutes left on his cell phone plan.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty defended the length of time it took to charge Dr. Haneef.

"The detention of Dr. Haneef, whilst attracting considerable media attention, is something that the organization and certainly myself believed was necessary in order to afford everybody the best opportunity to understand what has occurred," he told reporters today.