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I am victim of Australian conspiracy: Haneef

Last updated on: July 31, 2007 00:03 IST

Dr Mohammad Haneef, who returned to Bangalore on Sunday from Brisbane after being absolved of terrorism charges, on Monday said he was a victim of an Australian conspiracy.

Addressing a press conference at Bangalore along with his lawyer Peter Russo and relative Imran Siddique, Dr Haneef said, "I am a true follower of Islam and it is a peace-loving religion. None should be victimised in the name of religion."

Dr Haneef, who sported a black suit, started the press conference by thanking all those who helped him through this crisis. He also added that he was overwhelmed by the support.

On whether he was victimised because he was an Asian Muslim, Dr Haneef said that there could be an element of that. Russo was quick to add that investigating agencies had cleaned up all his things, including from his home.

"Dr Haneef had no where to go and no place to live. This is what we mean by victimization," he said.

Reacting to the Australian government's statement that they did not intend to tender an apology, Dr Haneef said, "I don't expect one. However, they should apologise to the peace loving citizens of my country."

On his visa being held back by the Australian government, Dr Haneef said, "I don't know why it is being held back. I want the government to come forward and clear things on this issue."

I want to return to Australia and fight for my visa, Dr Haneef said, adding that he
was saddened by the fact that until his visa is returned he cannot go back and work in Australia.

On his cousins Kafeel and Sabeel who are suspects in the London terror plot, Dr Haneef said he had made it cleat in his interview regarding them. He shot back in anger, "I can not repeat this a thousand times. However, I will offer moral support to their family in Bangalore as it is a question of humanity."

On his future plans, Dr Haneef said he was keeping his options open. Although he wanted to return to Australia, he said at the moment he wanted to spend time with his family.

"The past few days were like literally going to a grave yard and coming back," he said.

Dr Haneef was not allowed to answer the question on the amount he had allegedly received to give an exclusive interview to Channel 9. His relative Imran, speaking on his behalf, only said, "He needed to thank the people and hence had given the interview." There was no further discussion on the monetary aspect.

On why he sought legal help three days after his detention, Dr Haneef said he was hopeful of being released and thought he had been taken in only for questioning and would be let off immediately.

Praising his wife, Firdous Ahshriya, Dr Haneef said he was surprised by the manner in which she fought for him. He said that he came to know about her role only after he came out of prison as he did not have access to newspapers while under detention.

On how he felt on seeing his new born baby for the first time, he said, "She was sleeping when I saw her first. But the moment was amazing."

Russo explained at length the ordeal Dr Haneef that had to go through in detention before he was absolved of all charges. He said it was fortunate that the charges had been dropped and he could bring him back to India. It could have taken 18-odd months to bring Haneef back, if things had not gone this way.

"It is my honour to look after Dr Haneef who is an honest and humble man," he said.

When asked about Australian Prime Minister John Howard's statements on Dr Haneef, Russo said everyone had a right to make his or her comments.

With regard to the investigation, Russo said that it appeared that while Dr Haneef was being questioned, there was some other person in another room who could have been prompting the questions to be asked.

On the prospects of Dr Haneef's visa being returned, Russo said, "We have a strong case and we hope that we are successful. With regard to the sim card that was found with Sabeel Ahmed, Russo said wrong information had been passed on the Australian police.

Russo also faced a volley of questions when he said that Imran had been of great help and was a good negotiator. When asked what he meant by negotiation, he said Imran had just helped his legal team.

On whether Dr Haneef would sue the Australian government, Russo said, "This man (Haneef) has just come out of detention on Friday. Where was time to even discuss it? We have not had any time to even think about it. Suing the Australian government is not on the radar as yet. Haneef has to be aware of his legal rights and we have not told him about it as yet."

During the press conference one journalist jokingly asked, "Will you give your sim to Imran (relative). Haneef, who laughed for the first time in the press conference, said: "I would rather give it to Russo."

Prior to the press conference, Dr Haneef met Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy at his official residence. Kumaraswamy, who said he was very happy with the turn of events, even offered Dr Kafeel senior surgeon's post in the government health department. He, however, did not commit anything to the chief minister, stating that he was keeping his options open.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore