So, the Indian-born and trained Muslim Doctor Mohammed Haneef has not only been charged with the offence of supporting terrorism, but he has also been summarily stripped of his Australian Visa and taken into Immigration Detention.
Update: It seems the news reports that Dr. Haneef was in immigration detention were incorrect. He’s still in jail in Queensland because he hasn’t posted bail yet. His lawyer thinks he might avoid detention by not posting bail (to trump the trump, as it were) so we’ll just have to see how this shakes out.
And all this over a SIM card that he left with his cousins in Britain when he came to work in Australia.
From the news reports, Mohammed Haneef is a good doctor. The hospital he was working at on the Gold Coast, it was said, would take him back in an instant should he be released. Sounds pretty good to me.
But let’s get back to this SIM card business. From everything I have read, the SIM card was “found inside” the truck that rammed into Glasgow Airport, and from which jumped Dr. Haneef’s two second-cousins who subsequently set themselves alight. Sounds pretty extreme, but there’s an enormous gulf between “found inside” and “found wired to an explosive device”. Which, if it were wired to something, I am sure we would have been told.
So this is all speculation, but what the heck? We’ve got nothing else.
Let’s say that one or both of these men took Dr. Haneef to the airport on the day he left. Before getting on the plane, Dr. Haneef switched off his mobile phone and pulled the SIM card. We don’t know if this was a monthly-paid account he had or if this was a prepaid account. If it were prepaid and couldn’t be used outside Britain, then the line might have been, “Here, there’s ten pounds credit left on this, so you can use it up for me.” The cousin got back outside and tossed the SIM in the glove compartment. Maybe he left the whole phone, we don’t know.
Let’s assume for the moment that Dr. Mohammed Haneef isn’t a terrorist. It has not been proven in a Court of Law that he is one, so I’d say this is fair. So let’s also assume he didn’t know what his cousins might get up to in his absence.
And, let’s make the one last leap of faith and assume that it was a prepaid mobile account that had some juice left in it.
He might have thought he was doing a nice thing by gifting a relative with some mobile phone credit that they could use for whatever, seeing as how he couldn’t use it himself. It’s the kind of thing that I might do myself. I mean, why not?
We have not been given any details about the account this SIM card was connected to. I surely wouldn’t leave a monthly-paid card with my mother, so this is why I think it must have been a prepaid account.
But I have not seen anyone ask this question.
I really believe that this is all going too far. The concept of being innocent until you are found guilty in a court of law seems to have gone right out the window here. Where is the fairness in this? Keep the guy in jail for close to 2 weeks and then charge him with giving away a SIM card? Are you shitting me?
Let’s create a test case, here…
Let’s say I have a neighbour. That neighbours name is Mustafa al Imam. Mustafa’s always been a nice guy, helping my wife carry in the groceries if I’m not around and stuff like that. His kids play with my kids, and we’re good friends, as far as neighbours go. One day, Mustafa comes over and asks to use my phone – apparently his phone is out of whack and he just needs to make a quick call. I think nothing of it, toss him the cordless and tell him to bring it back when he’s done and – as long as he’s not on the line overseas for an hour – not to worry about any cost involved. He’s a good neighbour, and those are worth their weight on gold.
So Mustafa says thanks, takes the phone out to his house (well within radio range) and calls up a few radio stations to tell them that something terrible is going to happen. Or he calls some sleeper cell somewhere and tells them to do whatever it is they have planned to do. Something nefarious.
He then brings back the phone (because we are nice people) and goes on his way.
Am I now a criminal? Can I, too, be sent to jail for 15 years because I didn’t realise that this man was a terrorist? Have I provided material support to a terrorist organisation simply by letting this man use my phone?
In normal juris prudence, at least in the British tradition, there needs to be something called mens rea in order to be found guilty of a criminal offence.
Mens rea is fancy Latin for “criminal mind”, or that you must bear some malice in what you’re doing in order to be found guilty of it. There are many shades of grey, but generally speaking you need to know that what you’re doing might be a bad thing in order to be convicted of it. This is why insanity is a defence.
But, under the anti-terror laws enacted now by most Western governments, you apparently don’t even need to know that what you’re doing might even remotely be a bad thing in order to be convicted of a high crime.
I believe that this is wrong. How can we be held culpable for doing something that – in and of itself – is not a criminal act? If I lend you my telephone – or my thresher –
and you then use it to commit a criminal act, why should this make me a criminal? Agreed that if I know what you’re going to do that makes me an accessory, but if I don’t know you’re going to do anything other than use it the way it should be then how can I be guilty of anything?
Yes, granted, there’s more to the Haneef case than just the SIM card. He wanted to leave Australia quickly, he told people he had to get out fast and so on…but none of that means one damn whit because it’s all circumstantial. And in a normal court, circumstantial evidence doesn’t mean shit.
I do believe that the Australian Federal Police have charged Dr. Haneef with this small crime in order to be able to hold him without difficulty while they look for more dirt. But it’s a bit distressing that they kept him for 13 days and this crap is the best they could come up with.
This will all come out in the wash, but for now it doesn’t look good for us Paranoid Westerners. I know for damn sure nobody is getting to use my phone.