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Terror charges dropped, doctor is back in India

The Bangalore native returns from Australia saying he hadn't known of British bombing plot.

July 30, 2007|From the Associated Press

BANGALORE, INDIA — Mobbed by TV cameramen, journalists and supporters, a 27-year-old doctor arrived home to a hero's welcome Sunday after Australia dropped terrorism charges against him and released him from jail.

Looking relaxed and smiling, Mohammed Haneef was whisked from the airport to his family's home in southern India after flying from Brisbane. Haneef's jailing had aroused waves of sympathy in his native country.

"What can give a mother more happiness? My child is free and he is coming home," Haneef's mother, Qurrath-ul-Ain, said as she passed out sweets to relatives and neighbors at her home, which was decorated with strings of jasmine flowers, balloons and streamers.

In an emotional TV interview earlier, Haneef said he had no knowledge of his relatives' alleged involvement in failed terrorist attacks in Britain last month and that if he had known, he would not have kept silent.

Haneef was arrested July 2 at an airport in Brisbane as he was about to fly to India to see his wife and newborn daughter. Two days earlier, his second cousins Sabeel Ahmed and Kafeel Ahmed had been arrested by British police after failed attacks in Glasgow and London.

Haneef was released Friday after Australia's chief prosecutor, Damian Bugg, said there was no evidence to support the charge that he had provided reckless support to a terrorist organization by giving his cellphone SIM card to Sabeel Ahmed, a postgraduate medical trainee.

In a paid interview broadcast Sunday on Australia's Nine Network, Haneef said supporting a terrorist organization was against his nature.

"I never imagined, even in the remotest corner of my brain, that I would be labeled with such a defaming thing," Haneef said. He gave Sabeel Ahmed his SIM card before leaving for Australia because it had unused minutes, he said.

Appearing close to tears, Haneef said that if he had suspected his cousins were planning bombings in Britain, he would not have kept it to himself.

"I would have let the parents know first, who are the main sufferers now," Haneef said.

Kafeel Ahmed is believed to have driven an explosives-laden Jeep Cherokee that crashed into Glasgow's airport in Scotland last month. He remains in a hospital with critical burns. Police have charged Sabeel Ahmed, 26, with withholding information that could have prevented an act of terrorism.

Australian Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said that Haneef was free to leave after his release from jail but that his work visa remained canceled.

Haneef's attorney said he would appeal that decision.

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