The law as it stands allows for a person to be detained for questioning in relation to acts of terrorism. A person can be questioned for a maximum of 24 hours. However, the legislation does not state the maximum number of hours a person may be held before questioning begins. – Mr Peter Russo, partner in the law firm Ryan and Bosscher Lawyers, and Mohamed Haneef’s lawyer.
I believe this aspect of the governments anti-terrorism legislation to be the major failing of it, and is also the thrust of Peter Russo’s opinion piece in today’s Fairfax press.
By direct contrast, Mr Russo’s legal colleague and serial government supporter, Peter Faris QC, has the following to say in his Op-Ed piece.
The Haneef case shows that Australia’s terrorism laws and criminal justice system are working well. As far as I am aware, nobody has suggested that the conduct of the police or the courts has been illegal. Haneef has been dealt with according to law. Haneef was subject to the supervision of a court while he was detained. He was interrogated by the police, as is appropriate in a criminal matter. At the end of that period, he was charged. He made a prompt bail application and was granted bail. If he stands trial, a jury will determine his guilt or innocence. The complaints of his wife and his lawyers that there is no evidence are interesting but irrelevant. His guilt or innocence will be determined by the criminal justice system, not in the media by his family and lawyers. This is as it should be.
Faris completely passes over the issue of civil liberties and proper democratic process under law, preferring to concentrate, as Kevin Andrews has done on behalf of the government, on the strict points of the law and his interpretation thereof. Faris also makes the mistake of determining Haneef to be a terrorist by inference, and therefore subject to the full force of the laws as they stand. Yet in the same virtual breath, he caveats his own claims by stating that he doesn’t know the full details of the case. An amazing revelation, as none of us know the details of the case, other than those privy to or made privy to the details by the AFP. It’s easy to see why Fairfax have Faris et al write for them occasionally.
The real issues are made patently clear by Russo, who after all is said & done has been right at the coal-face of this issue, struggling for the rights of his client in the face of some rather rigid and seemingly ill-conceived legislation. Where terrorist or suspected terrorist sympathies are evident or even suspected, then certainly, the general public have a right to expect protections under the law. Equally, those suspected are also entitled to protections under the same law of their right to be judged innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A difficult balance to be achieved, to be sure, but one which Australia, as a democratic nation, must seek to uphold above all other considerations.