A high profile terror case was abandoned before it got to trial today after a judge found that two ASIO officers had kidnapped and falsely imprisoned a young medical student, Izhar ul-Haque.
Mr ul-Haque’s lawyer, Adam Houda, later accused authorities of launching a politically motivated and “moronic prosecution” against his client.
In a scathing judgment, NSW Supreme Court Justice Michael Adams said two ASIO officer had broken the law in a deliberate attempt to coerce answers from Mr ul-Haque.
“I am satisfied that B15 and B16 [the ASIO officers] committed the criminal offences of false imprisonment and kidnapping at common law and also an offence under section 86 of the Crimes Act,” the judge said.
He said this misconduct meant subsequent police records of interview with Mr ul-Haque were inadmissible as evidence.
The judge’s findings forced the Crown to withdraw its case against Mr ul-Haque, just before a trial jury was to be empanelled.
Mr ul-Haque had faced charges of training with the Pakistan-based terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Toiba since April 2004.
He was accused of receiving weapons and combat training from the organisation during a visit to Pakistan in January and February 2003.
“This is reminiscent of Kafka,” Justice Adams said in a lengthy judgment in which he derided the misconduct of both ASIO and Australian Federal Police officers.
He detailed how ASIO officers had confronted Mr ul-Haque, forced him into a car and then taken him to a park where he was threatened with serious consequences if he did not co-operate fully.
Justice Adams said Mr ul-Haque rightly believed had no choice but to comply with all their demands.
The student was taken to his home where as many as 30 plain-clothes intelligence officers and police conducted a search while his family watched.
Mr ul-Haque was then interviewed again amid continuing threats against him, even though ASIO only had a search warrant.
It was a “gross breach of the powers given to the officers given under the warrant” Justice Adams said, adding later that at least one ASIO officer had broken the common law and legislative protections against false imprisonment.
He also heavily criticised two AFP officers who had demanded Mr ul-Haque become their informant against Faheem Lodhi, a Sydney architect who was found guilty last year of terrorism offences. That verdict is now subject to appeal.
The police officers also threatened Mr ul-Haque with adverse consequences if he didn’t comply.
However, Mr ul-Haque refused to wear a wire and to spy for the authorities, and was charged three months later with a single terrorism offence.
Justice Adams detailed evidence of how law enforcement authorities had told Mr ul-Haque all along they accepted that his brief training with Lashkar-e-Toiba was linked to the Indian presence in the disputed state of Kashmir and had nothing to do with Australia.
Mr ul-Haque declined to to comment to the waiting media after today’s case ended.
However, Mr Houda said his client had been unfairly persecuted.
“This has been a moronic prosecution,” Mr Houda said. “From the beginning, this was no more than a political show trial designed to justify the billions of dollars spent on counter-terrorism.”