When I read that an Indian-born doctor living in Australia had been charged with giving "reckless support" to terrorism for giving someone a SM card, it looked rather odd but I supposed they must have had some more compelling evidence. Er, no.
At first the British police claimed that this SIM card had been found in the burning jeep that was crashed into the doors of Glasgow Airport last month. Then they admitted that it had actually been found in a house in Liverpool where two of the suspects Kafeel and Sabeel Ahmed had been living. Mohammed Haneef is their second cousin and had stayed with them when he was in the UK. He had given them his SIM card when he left the country (as it would be no use to him).
This is part of a piece from last Wednesday's Guardian (The Australia connection) which alerted me to the fact that he was still in custody:
Haneef was put under surveillance by the Australian authorities, and then arrested 47 hours after the Glasgow incident in the departure lounge at Brisbane International Airport. He was about to board Singapore Airlines flight 246 on a one-way ticket back to India. He claimed he was on his way home to see his wife, Firdous Arshiya, who had just given birth to their daughter there.
The police suspected that his hasty departure was down to him having had some involvement, or knowledge of, the British terror plot, and 12 days later he was charged. At a magistrate's hearing to determine whether he should be allowed bail, the police revealed their case against him. A mobile phone Sim card that Haneef had left behind in the UK had been found in the burnt-out Jeep at Glasgow; he had admitted sharing a house in Liverpool with the two Ahmeds; and he had not given a satisfactory explanation of why he had suddenly decided to leave Australia.
The bail application was expected to fail, but the magistrate, Jacqui Payne, was underwhelmed by the facts set out by police. Noting that there was no direct evidence linking the 27-year-old to the British attacks, she ordered that he be freed, but that his passport be confiscated and that he report regularly to police.
The move took the government and the police, who had been expecting Haneef to stay in custody, by surprise. Later that day came the reaction: immigration minister Kevin Andrews said he was revoking Haneef's work visa on the grounds that he "reasonably suspected" that Haneef had been associating with persons involved in criminal conduct, namely terrorism, and that Haneef would remain in detention. Andrews also implied that there was a secret dossier of evidence against Haneef that was still being assessed and had not been made public for fear of compromising further investigations.
It is now clear that there was no "secret dossier" and he really was on his way to see his wife in India. So he was freed, as the BBC reported on Friday:
An Indian doctor has been freed from custody in Australia after charges linked to the failed bomb attacks in the UK were dropped. Dr Mohamed Haneef was released into home detention while he awaits a decision on his immigration status.
The 27-year-old had his visa revoked after he was charged with giving "reckless support" to terrorism. The charge was withdrawn on Friday after Australia's chief prosecutor admitted "a mistake has been made".
The case - which also threw new anti-terror laws under the spotlight - triggered concern from both legal and civil rights groups.
It seems that there is still some doubt about whether he will be able to stay in Australia, and the government don't seem to regret what happened (PM won't apologise to Dr Haneef )
Mr Howard said mistakes happened from time to time and when dealing with terrorism, it was better to be safe than sorry.
"Australia will not be apologising to Dr Haneef," Mr Howard told reporters in Sydney.
"Dr Haneef was not victimised and Australia's international reputation has not been harmed by this 'mis-start' to its new anti-terrorism laws."
Mr Howard said he supported the AFP and Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, who revoked Dr Haneef's visa earlier this month, just hours after a Brisbane court had granted him bail.
Despite the collapse of the case, Mr Andrews has refused to reinstate the visa unless the Indian national's lawyers successfully appeal against the decision in the Federal Court.
It's understandable that governments take a cautious line when it comes to anything related to terrorism, but if mistakes are made then what harm does it do to admit that you were wrong? Especially as the error seems to have been made by the British police.