A petite Muslim woman voted Young Australian of the year in 2006 says she was on drugs at the time, but blames it on her depression.
There were serious problems in her family, as they had come down heavily upon her for denouncing the then mufti of Australia, Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly. The cleric had solemnly proclaimed that women not properly attired were like "uncovered meat."
Hage-Ali joined issue with the mufti then, saying she was "nobody's meat." That created quite a stir, and her family members were upset over her "irreverent" comments.
The young woman, widely commended for her community work, is suing the state of New South Wales for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment following her detention on November 22, 2006, when she was arrested and taken to Bankstown police station for questioning on drug use in 2006.
She has admitted to possessing cocaine for her personal use but is suing for unspecified damages because, she says, the police did not have a warrant for her arrest.
She took the stand in the court in Sydney today. In answer to her counsel Greg Melick, Ms Hage-Ali said that her brother and father had disapproved of her speaking out against the mufti. Besides her family had strongly disapproved of her boyfriend.
Ms Hage-Ali said that an additional stress had been the death of her mother's sister and it had been particularly difficult because her aunt had also been upset by her choice of boyfriend.
Ms Hage-Ali has admitted in the hearing before Justice Michael Elkaim that in late 2006 she was using about 1.5 grams of cocaine a week and in intercepted phone calls to her supplier, Mohammed (Bruce) Fahda, she had spoken about getting cocaine for other people.
She has said that in reality she was getting cocaine only for herself.
Cross-examined today by Peter Bodor, QC, for the state of NSW, Ms Hage-Ali disagreed that after her arrest she had told police: "I am supposed to be a role model. I am a finalist NSW Young Australia of the Year. I spoke at a multicultural do. How embarrassing. You must all be laughing. Will the media find out?"
She did not recall the interviewing officer Sergeant Steven Patton saying: "The media will not find out from us but they probably will eventually, especially if you go to court."
Ms Hage-Ali said that Sergeant Patton had said something along the lines that an arrested person's employer would normally not be told of the arrest but there might have been a memorandum of understanding with the Attorney-General's department (where she was employed) by which such information would be passed on.
After the recorded interview, she said Sergeant Patton had not said that there was not enough evidence to charge her with supply but she could be charged with possession and use of cocaine.
She said Sergeant Patton had not said that his discretionary decision not to charge her might be overruled by a higher authority.
But she said Sergeant Patton had suggested that she pull out of the Young Australian of the Year competition but he had not said that if she were selected to represent NSW, it would look "worse when it eventually comes out" that she had been arrested.The hearing continues.