Couple in battle to clear names

A FORMER St Patrick’s College teacher says she and her partner are living a nightmare eight months after they were accused of planning to blow up a Middle Eastern consulate where they worked.

Fiona Sheehan and Mark Anstee are locked in a battle to clear their names after a colleague accused Mr Anstee of wanting to build a bomb and attack the Australian consulate in Dubai earlier this year.

Fiona Sheehan and Mark Anstee

Fiona Sheehan and Mark Anstee

The couple, who now live in Canberra, vehemently deny the terrorism allegations.

Mr Anstee, who worked at the Immigration Department in Hobart before a stint in Dubai, was sacked from his job as a visa officer just days after the complaint.

Government documents released under Freedom of Information laws show the Australian Federal Police were instructed to list Mr Anstee as a person of interest and was described on an official security report as a ‘‘budding terrorist’’.

Ms Sheehan, the daughter of the late, long-serving Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine, was also listed as a person of interest and co-conspirator in the security report.

They believe the complaint was motivated by a workplace dispute.

Mr Anstee fled the country soon after responding to the allegations in fear of the Dubai justice system.

‘‘As soon as you draw attention to yourself it’s very serious over there,’’ Ms Sheehan told The Examiner.

Ms Sheehan said they were never given a copy of the allegations, and had to fight bureaucracy to receive them.

‘‘It’s just dreadful and unbelievable,’’ Ms Sheehan said.

‘‘I have no doubt this will be on my record forever,’’ she said.

The couple have written thousands of words of complaints and requests to the ombudsman and various government departments.

An internal report by the Immigration Department found there was no basis for Mr Anstee to be considered a ‘‘budding terrorist’’, but the witness who made the allegation was ‘‘credible’’.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said the agency had undertaken a thorough investigation of the allegations made by Mr Anstee regarding his sacking.

‘‘The issues raised by the ex-employee are complex and involved a number of lines of inquiry,’’ the spokeswoman said.

The department commissioned an independent investigator in August, and released a confidential report at the end of last month.

The spokeswoman said the department was implementing its recommendations and acknowledged there were some ‘‘process issues’’ during the course of the initial investigation into Mr Anstee.

Mr Anstee has not worked since the allegations.

‘‘We can’t believe eight months on after such a serious allegation we are still living a nightmare,’’ Ms Sheehan said.

‘‘Mark will never get a job ... our lives have been ruined,’’ she said.

Ms Sheehan said the couple were considering legal action, and have been told they will receive a ‘‘letter of regret’’ from the department.

‘‘A letter of apology won’t put us back in the position we were eight months ago where we had this wonderful future where we would live happily ever after together,’’ she said.