Timorese protest Australia's prosecution of 'Witness K' and lawyer

July 20, 2018
Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) press conference on July 20 in Dili, Timor Leste.


Public Statement on the prosecution against Witness K and Bernard Collaery by the Australian government

Díli, 20 July 2018

It is with great astonishment and sadness that on 28 June the Movimentu Kontra Okupasaun Tasi Timor—the Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) learned that the Australian Lawyer Bernard Collaery and the Australian former Inteligence Officer "Witness K" have both been charged for revealing the Australian Government Spying on Timor-Leste's Cabinet Room during the negotiations for off-shore natural resources in the Timor Sea between Timor-Leste and Australia in 2004.

It is a great shock as this prosecution of Mr. Bernard Collaery and Witness K was approved by the Australian federal attorney general, Christian Porter, which means Mr. Collaery and Witness K have been prosecuted by the Australian government. For many in MKOTT, this prosecution reminds them of the prosecution of so many of them, of their family members, friends and colleagues by the Suharto government during the 24 years occupation.

Ironically, these Timorese were charged as terrorists by the Indonesian government and today, Mr. Bernard Collaery and Witness K are charged with the anti-terror law by the Australian Attorney General, their very own government. MKOTT is shocked that in this day and age, the Australian government is doing what it thought only the Dictator Suharto was capable of doing during his reign.

The Australian government had come under intense international scrutiny when the government of Timor-Leste brought the spying case before the International Court of Justice in January 2014. As an act of good faith, the government of Timor-Leste dropped this case in June 2015, which paved the way for the conciliation process overseen by the Permanent Court of Arbitration for the delimitation of a permanent maritime boundary between the two countries.

The Australian government publicly welcomed this and declared its own readiness to negotiate a permanent maritime boundary with Timor-Leste in good faith. The charges against Witness K and Collaery now shows that the Australian government had acted in bad faith with the mere intention of discharging the international pressure brought about by the espionage case at the ICJ.

MKOTT strongly condemns the charges against Lawyer Collaery and Witness K as politically motivated, which the movement regards as an attack on the freedom of expression and attack on democracy by the Australian government. This act on the part of the Australian government also shows that the government will use anything to pursue Australia's commercial interests in relations with its neighbors, even if it violates international law to deprive one of its poorest neighbor, and will crash anyone or anything stands on its way.

As a movement strives for justice, human rights, good neighborhood and respect for international law, MKOTT:

1. Expresses its solidarity with Witness K and his lawyer Mr. Bernard Collaery as they struggle to make the Australian government aware that their bugging of the Timorese cabinet room was not only illegal but also an infringement of Australia's spirit and tarnishing Australia's pride as a good and responsible member of the international community.

2. MKOTT calls on all the defenders of justice, human rights and international law in Australia and around the world to stand united in solidarity with Witness K and Lawyer Bernard Collaery against this prosecution.

3. MKOTT calls on the Australian government not to criminalise Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery as doing so is an attack on freedom of expression and democracy.

4. MKOTT calls on the government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to consider reviving the espionage case before the International Court of Justice should Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery are criminalized by the Australian government. They are charged because they revealed an illegal operation against the government and the people of Timor-Leste.

5. MKOTT calls on the Australian government to stop using the Australian state intelligence apparatus to spy on its neighbors for commercial gains, which is a clear breach of international law.

6. MKOTT applauds and support the stand of the Australian Federal Member of Parliament, Mr. Andrew Wilkie, who invoked his parliamentary privilege to let the public know about the prosecution against Witness K and Bernard Collaery by the government of Australia.

7. MKOTT appreciates the members of the Australian Federal Parliament; Andrew Wilkie MP, Senator Nick McKim, Senator Rex Patrick and Senator Tim Storer who requested the Australian Federal Police to investigate the legality of the Australian Spy Operation in the Timor-Leste Cabinet Room in 2004.

8. MKOTT calls on other Australian Federal Parliament Members and Senators from all the parties, particularly from the Labor Party who had opted the policy of respect to international law with regards to maritime boundary with Timor-Leste, to use their Parliamentary Privileges to reveal information in relation to the prosecution against Witness K and Lawyer Bernard Collaery to the public.

Join the protests against the prosecution of Collaery and 'Witness K' on Wed July 25: Melbourne: 11am, outside the Cwlth Offices, Treasury Pl (off Spring St). Sydney: 12noon-2pm, Cwlth Parliamentary offices, Philip St (near Bent St). Darwin: 12-2pm, Outside NT House, cnr of Mitchell and Bennett St.​ These actions will coincide with a protest in Dili, Timor Leste.

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