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Haneef returns home to a hero’s welcome
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, July 29
Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef returned home today to a hero’s welcome causing bedlam at the airport here with hundreds, including relatives and mediapersons, virtually mobbing him.

The doctor, who was released from a 25-day detention after being wrongly accused of supporting a terrorist organisation, said he was overjoyed to be back on Indian soil and was looking forward to being reunited with his family and meeting his newborn baby girl for the first time. He was received at the airport by his father-in-law Ishtiaque Ahmed and his brother Shoaib. Most of Haneef’s relatives, including his wife Firdous, chose to stay back at his in-laws house in BTM Layout.

Haneef, however, had to be virtually bundled into a vehicle after it became impossible for him to speak to the waiting media due to the chaos at the airport. He was accompanied by his lawyer Peter Russo, who looked happy and confident despite the jostling at the airport, and his cousin Imran Siddiqui who had earlier flown to Australia to assist him in the trial he was facing in Brisbane.

The police had made elaborate security arrangements at the airport with around 50 to 60 police personnel forming a human chain around Haneef. This was apparently done to facilitate an interaction with the media. However, when this chain could not be maintained and media personnel and photographers climbed over barricades to get close to him, the police chose to put him into a waiting vehicle immediately.

Family members disclosed Haneef would speak to the media later at his in-laws house which has been specially decorated to welcome him back. Haneef’s wife Firdous could be seen assisting her cousins in putting up coloured ribbons and buntings at the entrance of the house. The family said they would celebrate the reunion with a quiet dinner with relatives.

However, it remains to be seen how quiet this will be with photographers trying their best to get close to the gates of the residence and some even barging into the house despite being told there would be a press conference later in the night. It was difficult to even get into the lane where the house is situated due to the large number of OB vans parked alongside besides vehicles of security personnel, relatives and mediapersons.

Earlier in a reportedly paid interview with Australian channel Nine Network, the Indian doctor, when asked whether he was a terrorist, said: “It’s not in my nature to ever support or involve (myself) in such activities at all”.

He said he never meant to hurt anyone by his words and so could not think of hurting anyone by his activity.

Haneef said he was never a risk to Australia and would have informed authorities had he known his cousins Kafeel and Sabeel Ahmed were plotting attacks in the UK. He acknowledged visiting Kafeel, his relative who was arrested in the UK in connection with the failed Glasgow airport attack, in 2004 but said they had never lived together.

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‘I was victimised’
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, July 29
Dr Mohammed Haneef on his return tonight said he “had been victimised by the Australian authorities due to the drama played by the Australian Federal Police (AFP)”.

Haneef, who declined to elaborate on the statement, returned home to his family amidst showering of confetti and streamers to enjoy a home-cooked meal of chicken biryani. Sources said he was taken to a five-star hotel from the airport where the police had a ‘talk’ with him for some time. Haneef had landed at Bangalore around 9.30 pm. Before heading home, Haneef visited the Madina Masjid near his residence at BTM layout.

Though the doctor wanted to be with his wife Firdous for some time before speaking to the media, none of the mediapersons yielded. Hence, Haneef and his cousin Imran Siddiqui read out a brief statement. However, this took place amidst a lot of drama with Imran repeatedly asking the mediapersons to keep silence and then threatening to walk out of the room with Haneef when the chaos did not subside. He also said he would call the police and cancel the scheduled event.

Imran said Haneef had slept for merely three hours during the last two days and that he needed to be with his family due to which he would only read out a brief statement. A detailed press conference would be held tomorrow evening, he added.

Haneef’s statement that began with: “I start by thanking God, all praise to Him”, went on to say that it was an emotional moment for him to be with his family after being “victimised by the Australian authorities due to the drama played by the Australian Federal Police”. He thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the External Affairs Ministry, the Indian consulate in Australia, his lawyer Peter Russo, supporters in India and Australia and the media, besides his brother Imran Siddiqui, whom he credited for “bringing me home to my wife and daughter”. 

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A flood of job offers
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, July 29
Even while Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef says he may go back to Australia if his work visa is restored, there are enough jobs on offer here should he choose otherwise.

The Karnataka government has decided to make a job offer to Haneef in case he chooses to stay back in India. The job offer was made today night itself after Haneef landed to a hero’s welcome at the international airport here.

Chief Minister H.D Kumaraswamy said Haneef would be offered the post of a Senior Practitioner in a government hospital of his choosing as well as speciality if he chose to stay back in the city. Kumaraswamy said he would seek Haneef’s views on the issue when he goes to meet him at his in-laws’ residence tomorrow. The Chief Minister said in case Haneef wanted to return to Australia he would request the Prime Minister to intervene to get his visa restored to him.

Meanwhile, the medical fraternity is also receptive to Haneef working in the city without any problem. M.S Ramaiah Medical Hospital, Director, Dr Naresh Shetty, said there was no hurdle in offering Haneef a job in Bangalore because there was no case against him.

St Martha’s Medical Superintendent Sister Theresita when questioned on this said the hospital would gladly take on Haneef if he needed a job. She said the hospital was only concerned about the Indian government’s view on the issue and would hire Haneef if there was no problem on this score.

Even Haneef’s alma mater B.R Ambedkar Medical College has come forward to welcome Haneef back to Bangalore. Its Medical Superintendent Dr Premalatha Patil said Haneef had always been a bright student and the college was happy that he had been proved innocent. 

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