Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The actions of a guilty government

Back in 2004, Australia allegedly bugged the leaders of East Timor, getting ASIS agents to infiltrate their offices disguised as aid workers in order to listen in on their negotiating position over oil and gas rights in the Timor Sea. The case is currently before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, and it looks pretty convincing - thanks to the willingness of an ASIS whistleblower to testify as to his government's dirty deeds. But today, in a clear effort to disrupt the case, the Australian government raided the Canberra office of East Timor's lawyer, and detained its star witness:

ASIO officers have allegedly detained a man and raided the office of a lawyer who claims that Australian spies bugged the cabinet room of East Timor's government during tense negotiations over rich Greater Sunrise oil and gas deposits.

The lawyer, Bernard Collaery, is representing the East Timorese government, which has declared the treaty governing Greater Sunrise invalid and is seeking arbitration in The Hague this week.

East Timor, also known as Timor Leste, will tender evidence of the eavesdropping as part of its case. Mr Collaery, who just arrived in The Hague, told Fairfax the raids were a ''disgrace''. ''How dare they?'' Mr Collaery said. ''These tactics are designed to intimidate the witness and others from coming forward. It's designed to cover up an illegal operation in 2004 by ASIS [the Australian Secret Intelligence Service].''

The whistleblower's passport has also reportedly been seized, in a clear effort to prevent him from giving evidence.

Australia's spy Minister, George Brandis, says that the raids have nothing to do with the case and are instead about "national security". Bullshit. These are the actions of a guilty government, trying to silence its opponents and prevent justice from being served. Witness intimidation and the wholesale violation of attorney-client privilege is the sort of thing you expect to see in Putin's Russia, not in a supposedly democratic country like Australia.