Yet again, a case which received a blaze of publicity over two years ago, adding to unrealistic fear and alarm about Muslims in Australia, has failed when it finally comes to trail – and providing Australia’s Muslims yet another reason to feel less secure and less trusting of our government and law enforcement agencies.
Even more worryingly, the judge in the case condemned the conduct of ASIO officers as “grossly improper”.
In a damning judgment, Justice Michael Adams said the two ASIO officers “committed the criminal offences of false imprisonment and kidnapping at common law”.Their conduct was “grossly improper”, he said. Ruling all subsequent police records of interview inadmissible, Justice Adams also observed that the officers’ later explanations for their behaviour were defensive and, at times, untruthful.
“They were aware that what they were doing was unlawful. They were perfectly aware that they were not entitled to detain. Nor was there any suggestion of emergency that might have provided some mitigation for their conduct,” he said.
And it wasn’t just this case that saw a serious misuse of the wide-ranging powers granted under the so-called ‘anti-terror’ laws. The Australian reports that a senior counter-terrorism officer with the Australian Federal Police has testified that police were directed to charge “as many suspects as possible” with terrorism offences in order to test the new anti-terrorism laws introduced in 2003.
Bad luck if you got caught up in the police’s efforts to road test their new powers. But it will not have escaped the notice of Australia’s Muslim communities that it was only Muslims who were targeted with the laws.
Many people may feel that the fact our so-called ‘anti-terror’ laws provide such massive powers to government and police is a necessary price in the modern world. I have spoken in the Senate about concerns that giving such large powers with such poor oversight over how they are used opens up a real prospect of them being abused. This not only creates an unjust situation for the person who is the target of the abuse of these powers – it actually risks making our society less, not more, secure. This is particularly the case if the laws are seen to be used to single out or target a specific group in the community – as is clearly occurring with Muslim Australians.
Most terror suspects find themselves in the dock thanks to information provided to the authorities from external sources. Well, not quite external sources. Generally the information comes from people within their congregations. People who attend their mosques. Muslim people.
Ordinary citizens who just happen to observe the requirements of their faith to some extent. And who regard it as their religious duty to ensure their families and neighbours and nation are secure from “fitna” and “fasad” (words used in Arabic, Turkish, Urdu and other languages commonly spoken by huge chunks of the Islamic world to describe chaos and terror).
I wonder whether they’ll be so willing after reading for months about the Haneef investigation that revealed AFP investigators having little or no understanding of basic aspects of South Asian cultures. AFP investigators who didn’t realise that Urdu (not “Udo” as they put it) was the name of a language. And now they find the prosecution of the future-Dr Haque has been thrown out after ASIO agents were accused of engaging in kidnapping and the evidence they gathered largely inadmissible. Add to this revelations that AFP agents were directed to charge as many people as possible with a view to testing the new beefed-up anti-terrorism laws.