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When There's A Circle Of Reason
When Mohammed Haneef's cousin Imran Siddiqui flew down to Australia, he was probably harbouring much ill-feeling for the country and its people. But a few days here has him now gushing over the sympathy and support he has received. "People have been wonderful here. They have offered their homes for me to stay, signed cheques, even written letters to help Haneef. The support Haneef and I are getting here is absolutely amazing," Imran told Outlook.
Lawyers here have even helped establish a trust fund to meet the steep legal expenses. "The money they have raised already runs to thousands of dollars, I think. And they are out there on Sundays, holding rallies to raise awareness about the Haneef case," Imran said, visibly overwhelmed.
The response of Australians, though, is in sharp contrast to the treatment meted out by the Indian High Commission, say sources. They say Imran was assured, before he came down to Australia, that the commission would take care of him as well as the legal fees. Two days after arriving in Australia, he inquired from Haneef's lawyers, "So, when did the Indians get in touch to hire you guys?" Their response that "the Indian mission had played no role in hiring the legal aid" shocked Imran, say the sources. When the Brisbane police inquired from lawyers who among them were prepared to defend Haneef, Peter Russo and his legal team had raised their hands. It was as simple as that.
Nor did the high commission send anyone to receive Imran at the airport. Sources say Imran understands Indian diplomats have to see Haneef as a terror suspect and are consequently wary of him. But what Imran can't get over is their reluctance to do the "basics". The Indian consul did make two quick visits to Haneef, but they weren't designed to achieve results. Says a source, "Before one visit, the consul spoke to Russo and said he was coming to Brisbane to meet Haneef. Peter offered to pick him up from the airport. But in the end the consul just snuck in and out of Brisbane without meeting the lawyers. Peter joked that perhaps the high commission was afraid they would be hit for the legal fees!"
Worse, the Indian mission didn't even offer to make travel arrangements when it invited Imran and Russo over to Canberra on July 25. The duo did meet and brief high commissioner P.P. Shukla, who apparently was extremely pleasant and gracefully offered all help. Sources, though, say Imran is confused about the nature of help Shukla had in mind. Outlook's requests for an interview with Shukla were denied.