The Australian Federal Police has been criticised by a Supreme Court judge for bungling a two-year investigation into three men who sent funds to the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers separatist group, including improperly arresting a suspect and abusing his rights.
The AFP's mistakes occurred during its 2007 arrest and questioning of Arumugam Rajeevan, one of three men who will be sentenced in the Victorian Supreme Court today for providing money to a terrorist organisation.
Federal agents arrested Rajeevan at gunpoint despite having no legal basis to do so, refused requests from a barrister and lawyer to speak to him during his five-hour voluntary interview, and subjected him to questioning described by the Victorian Supreme Court's Justice Paul Coghlan as ''really well over the top'' and ''outrageous''.
The AFP, which sustained heavy criticism over its handling of another terrorist investigation into the Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef, said it could not comment on the case until the men had been sentenced.
However, it is believed the AFP has already made changes to deal with the problems that arose during the Tamil Tigers investigation.
Last year Australian prosecutors withdraw all terrorism charges against Rajeevan, Aruran Vinayagamoorthy and Sivarajah Yathavan.
In December they pleaded guilty to a lesser charge under the charter of the United Nations Act, a federal law that makes it a criminal offence to provide an asset to a terrorist organisation proscribed by either the UN or the Australian government.
In pre-trial comments in January last year - which could not be reported at the time - Justice Coghlan said federal agents had ''abused'' the rights of Rajeevan.
He said the manner in which Rajeevan was questioned by a federal agent, Patricia Reynolds, was ''beyond any training a proper investigator can have'' and a ''fundamental departure from the [proper] principles''.
After his criticism, the prosecution decided not to use Rajeevan's interview as part of its case.
Justice Coghlan queried why the AFP did not give Rajeevan access to lawyers while police were questioning him. He also described as ''frighteningly high-handed'' Rajeevan's arrest at gunpoint in 2007 by federal agents and warned police they risked incriminating themselves by testifying about the potentially unlawful arrest. After the arrest, police realised they did not have enough evidence to arrest him and told him he would be ''unarrested'', a notion which Justice Coghlan described as ''bizarre''.
The prosecution described the arrest of Rajeevan as ''a fairly grave mistake''. (Sydney Morning Herald)