Pressure mounts to scrap anti-terror laws

Two of Australia’s most high-profile anti-terrorism cases, those of Dr Mohamed Haneef and Jack Thomas (the first person to be charged under the federal anti-terrorism laws) are once again calling the Howard governments anti-terror legislation into question.

At the end of October, almost six years after he was first taken into custody, Jack Thomas was finally free (except for a continuing control order which restricts his movement and communication that his legal team is virtually unable to challenge).

This was the second jury to acquit Thomas on the terrorism-related charge of receiving $US3500 and a plane ticket home to Australia from senior al-Qaida member Khaled bin Attash.

He was convicted of possessing a falsified passport. Thomas had removed a Taliban visa from his passport as he feared being sent to Guantanamo Bay in the early days of the war on terror. He was being retried using evidence from interviews he gave to The Age and Four Corners. The judge sentenced him to nine months jail, but he walked free due to time already served, having been finally cleared of all convictions under the anti-terrorism legislation.

As Thomas walks free, the investigation into Mohamed Haneef’s arrest and detention continues.

The Age reported that the AFP knew that Haneef had no connection to the bombings in the United Kingdom. They also knew that the sim card he lent to his cousin was not even at the site of any of the attacks.

Despite this, they used Haneef’s relationship to the sim card to charge him with providing funding to an organisation and being reckless as to whether the organisation was a terrorist organisation. They used this charge to keep him in custody, regularly extending his detention.

The evidence of the AFP’s manipulation of the case is filtering out as the Clarke Inquiry into the affair continues. It is still unclear just how far the knowledge of Haneef’s innocence went.

What is clear is that the Rudd government has no intention of voluntarily repealing the anti-terrorism legislation. The laws remain an important part of the war on terror at home.

Despite Rudd’s reluctance, pressure is mounting for a review of the laws. As Thomas was freed The Age ran an editorial calling for the laws to be scrapped. As the reality of the laws that Haneef, Thomas, the Barwon 12 and the Goulburn nine face continues to be exposed, the anti-war movement has the perfect opportunity to push Rudd to scrap the laws.

By Ernest Price


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