Mohamed Haneef sues former immigration minister for loss of earnings

CLEARED terror suspect Mohamed Haneef is suing former immigration minister Kevin Andrews.

He is demanding the Liberal frontbencher pay the difference between what he is earning as a doctor in the Middle East and what he might have made in Australia.

Dr Haneef’s lawyers also filed a claim against the Australian government yesterday for unspecified financial damages arising from his arrest and lengthy detention in 2007, when he was wrongly accused of being involved in failed bombings in Britain.

The former Gold Coast Hospital registrar has gone after Mr Andrews personally for alleged defamation, citing interviews the then minister gave detailing or inferring that he was party to the overseas terrorism plot.

Dr Haneef, who is now working as a general practitioner in Dubai, alleges defamatory statements by Mr Andrews cost him pay and career advancement.

A statement of claim filed yesterday in the Queensland Supreme Court asserts that Dr Haneef received no income from December 21, 2007 – the date the work visa Mr Andrews had revoked was restored by the full Federal Court – until he took up his current contract in Dubai in July 2008.

He now earned less than he did on the Gold Coast and had lost the opportunity to train in Australia as a specialist physician and progress his medical career.

Dr Haneef’s claim against the government states that as a result of his “false imprisonment and malicious prosecution” he experienced stress, hurt, humiliation and loss of liberty, for which he was entitled to damages.

His lawyer, Rod Hodgson, of law firm Maurice Blackburn, said last night Mr Andrews was being sued for defamation in the expectation the Howard government minister would be indemnified by the current Labor government.

“We are going after Mr Andrews in a personal capacity but in expectation that . . . because he made his comments in his capacity as a minister that he would be covered,” Mr Hodgson said last night.

A spokesman for Mr Andrews, who holds the opposition portfolios of families, housing and human services, said the law suit was now with the MP’s lawyers, and he would not discuss it.

The department and office of the federal Attorney-General also declined to comment.

Mr Hodgson said there had been “preliminary discussions” with the government to settle the case out of court. Dr Haneef’s objective was a “global resolution” of both actions. “We remain pretty confident that the government wants this blight on Australian history expunged,” he said.

Mr Hodgson declined to say how much compensating Dr Haneef would cost the taxpayer, except that “we are talking about considerable” loss of income and future earnings.

The foreign-trained doctor was arrested at Brisbane airport on July 2, 2007, while attempting to board a flight home to India. At the time, he was alleged by Australian Federal Police to have been linked to an attempted car bombing in London and the bid by Islamist terrorists, including his fatally injured cousin, Kafeel Ahmed, to crash a blazing Jeep into Glasgow airport.

A mobile phone SIM card belonging to Dr Haneef was said to have been found in the wreckage of the car, when this was not the case. He was charged with a single count of recklessly supporting a terrorist organisation and held in custody, but this was withdrawn 25 days later for lack of evidence.

Later, an inquiry headed by John Clarke QC found there had been no evidence to link Dr Haneef to the failed attacks.

Dr Haneef’s statement of claim against the government for unspecified damages for wrongful imprisonment and malicious prosecution, alleges that the officer in charge of the AFP investigation, Commander Ramzi Jabbour, knew within a week of Dr Haneef’s arrest there was insufficient evidence with which to charge him.

The statement of claim alleges that Commander Jabbour’s action in charging and prosecuting Dr Haneef was improper and motivated by malice.

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