Prime Minister Kevin Rudd insists Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty was not forced to quit, but chose to retire after 35 years in the force.
Mr Rudd praised Mr Keelty\’s work, saying he had steered the AFP through eight difficult years, which saw a string of challenges, including the Bali bombings and the Indian Ocean tsunami.
“Mick Keelty has provided enormous service to Australia and to the AFP,” the PM told reporters in Sydney.
“I would like to publicly acknowledge the work that he did in response to the Bali bombing where we lost nearly 100 of our own Australians who were murdered in that horrific event.”
Forensic evidence gathered by the Australian Federal Police was credited with helping catch the extremists responsible for the Bali bombings, in which 202 people, including 88 Australians, were killed.
Mr Rudd said Mr Keelty was leaving of his own accord.
\’Good copper\’ plaudits
“It is time for him to do something else,” he said. “We would have been delighted if he had chosen to stay on.”
Mr Keelty will stand down on September 2, his 35th anniversary as a police officer.
Former attorney-general Philip Ruddock, said he hoped Mr Keelty had not been pressured into resigning.
“He\’s given outstanding leadership – he was appointed until 2011 – I think he could continue to give that very outstanding leadership,” Mr Ruddock told ABC Radio.
“I know nothing other than that he had the continuing appointment and I just made the comment, \’I hope it\’s his decision\’.”
Earlier, the federal coalition paid tribute to Mr Keelty, describing him as a “good copper”.
“He\’s has done a great job with the organisation,” opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne told Sky News, adding Mr Keelty\’s resignation would be a great loss.
Haneef case controversy
Mr Keelty, 54, became commissioner in 2001. He was the first commissioner to be appointed from within the ranks of the AFP and only the second to have served as commissioner for two terms.
He received Indonesia\’s highest policing award in 2003 for the AFP\’s close cooperation with the Indonesian National Police (INP) in combatting terrorism.
But he came under fire over the Haneef case, when police used sweeping counter-terrorism laws to hold Queensland-based doctor Mohamed Haneef for more than two weeks and tried to prosecute him on the basis of what turned out to be incorrect evidence.
The then Queensland premier Peter Beattie likened Keelty\’s officers to “Keystone Kops” over the affair, and the federal government ordered a review of counter-terrorism laws.
Keelty has also suggested the media should be prevented from reporting on anti-terrorism investigations.
He angered the previous conservative government in 2004 when he said that Australia\’s involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq increased the likelihood of militants targeting the country.