Friday, July 27, 2007

Egg on Howard's face

Not surprisingly the incredibly flimsy case against Dr Haneef has completely fallen apart with the Director of Public Prosecutions dropping all charges.

Only ten days ago this man was so dangerous that the Government felt the need to revoke his visa and detain him under the immigration laws after a magistrate refused to play the Government's game and granted him bail. Now he's free in the community, the Immigration Minister having sought to save face by placing him on "residential detention" which seems to be something like house arrest but without the arrest part. All that remains is for his visa to be restored after a face saving consultation with the Solicitor-General.

John Howard would have you believe that all this has nothing to do with him or his Government. Let's look at the evidence.

You've got the Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, a political light weight who was surely acting as the Prime Minister's puppet, cancelling Dr Haneef's visa in order to frustrate the decision of a court to grant bail.

You've got the Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, one of Howard's closest allies, complaining that the "presumption against bail" didn't work, meaning that the Government lied when the legislation was being debated in Parliament and they made all sorts of reassurances about checks and balances, because what they really meant was "no bail".

And you've got the PM bleating about needing to toughen the terrorism laws which was clearly intended to inflame the situation.

No, if he sounds like a fear mongering little bastard, and acts like a fear mongering little bastard, you can be pretty sure that he is a fear mongering little bastard.

There is a silver lining in this cloud because there are several players who come out of this smelling quite good especially the magistrate who called the Government right up front on the flimsiness of their case and granted bail to Dr Haneef, and his lawyers and the legal fraternity in general who were fearless in confronting the Government.

As for the DPP Damian Bugg QC, I have mixed feelings. I'm surprised that in such a high profile case he wasn't personally involved earlier, but once he did get involved and saw that there was no evidence he immediately did the right thing. I ought to point out for my US readers that the DPP is a career civil servant, not a political appointee or elected office holder. If this had been a US prosecutor pursuing a partisan political agenda I have no doubt that Dr Haneef would have spent months or years waiting to be exonerated.

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