BRISBANE, Australia – Terror suspect Mohamed Haneef tried to telephone a British investigator four times after learning he was wanted in failed British terror attacks, but the calls went unanswered, according to a leaked police interview.
Haneef, who is charged in Australia with giving support to a terrorist organization in connection to the plots in London and Glasgow, Scotland, told police he made the calls because he wanted to clear his name before he became a suspect, the documents published Wednesday show.
The leak comes amid intense debate about whether the police and the Australian government are treating Haneef fairly, and triggered a bitter exchange between officials and one of Haneef's lawyers.
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The lawyer, Stephen Keim, identified himself as the source of the leak, saying the leak was in the public interest and that it counters what he called a government-backed campaign aimed at bolstering weak allegations against Haneef.
Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said the leak was being investigated as a possible contempt of court. Prime Minister John Howard said whoever was responsible was trying to frustrate justice and "should be condemned."
Haneef, 27, was arrested as he tried to leave Australia for India with a one-way ticket on July 2, two days after two men drove a flaming Jeep loaded with gas canisters into the international airport in Glasgow. Unexploded car bombs were found in London the day before.
Haneef was charged on Saturday, with prosecutors alleging he was "reckless" for leaving his mobile phone SIM card with a distant cousin, whose brother was in the Glasgow Jeep. The SIM card was found in the burned-out vehicle, prosecutors say.
A magistrate this week granted Haneef conditional bail, saying the evidence was not strong enough to keep him in jail. Within hours, the federal government revoked Haneef's visa and said he would be taken into immigration custody if he posted bail.
Haneef's lawyers on Wednesday lodged an appeal of the visa decision with the Federal Court, which set a hearing date of Aug. 8. On the criminal charge, Haneef has not entered a plea and will face court on Aug. 31.
Police moved Haneef from a holding cell to a jail in the eastern city of Brisbane, where officials said he would be kept alone in his cell for 23 hours a day, with one hour for exercise.
The Australian newspaper on Wednesday posted on the Internet what Keim said was the official transcript of a July 3 police interview with Haneef. Condemning the leak on national radio, Keelty did not challenge the authenticity of the document.
In the 142-page transcript, Haneef said he had no prior knowledge of the attempted attacks in Britain.
"I'm clear from any of the things," Haneef said. "I haven't done any of the crimes."
He told his interviewers he gave Sabeel Ahmed his mobile phone before he left for Australia in July 2006 because it had some unused credit. He also said he borrowed up to 300 pounds from Kafeel Ahmed in 2004 to pay for a medical exam.
Kafeel Ahmed is believed to have crashed the Jeep into the Glasgow airport and remains hospitalized with critical burns. Sabeel, his brother, has been charged with withholding information that could prevent a terrorist attack.
The Ahmed brothers are distant cousins of Haneef, and the three spent time together in England before Haneef moved to Australia. In April 2006, Sabeel and Haneef, along with Haneef's wife and her parents, rented a car and spent a day in Glasgow during a holiday in Scotland, Haneef said.
Haneef told police he was leaving Australia to be with his family in Bangalore, where his daughter had been born just days before his arrest. Her stay in hospital was prolonged after complications arose during the Caesarean birth.
Haneef said that after the attack he had received a phone call from Sabeel's mother, who told him that a British investigator wanted to speak with him. She gave him the officer's phone number and advised him to call.
"She said to me that there was something wrong with your mobile phone, someone was misusing the thing," Haneef said. "It's safe for you to just let them know. So that they don't think that you are ... clear yourself. And also because I was about to leave, so that I'm not absconding from any place, as such. To inform to them."
Haneef said he tried to call the number Sabeel's mother gave him, but got no response. The police interviewer said he had checked and it appeared Haneef had called the British officer's number four times on July 2.
Haneef told police he was a moderate Muslim, and that "I feel for every human being." When asked, he declined to offer an opinion about Iraq or Afghanistan.
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