Tag Archives: Australia

Australia/Timor Leste: Witness K case: prosecutors dump brief of evidence on last working day of legal year

January 8, 2019

Bernard Collaery

Commonwealth prosecutors have been accused of acting unfairly in the Witness K case after dumping their brief of evidence on defence lawyers about 6pm on the last working day of the legal year.

Bernard Collaery, a barrister, and his former spy client, Witness K, are being prosecuted for their role in exposing a secret Australian government mission to spy on Timor-Leste during lucrative oil and gas negotiations in 2004.

Collaery’s lawyers had been awaiting the brief of evidence against their client for months, and had previously warned its absence meant Collaery and Witness K faced serious charges without being given any detail of the specific allegations.

The evidence against Collaery was delivered after 6pm on Friday 21 December.

The legal year proper ends in the Australian Capital Territory after the last sitting day, 20 December. The ACT magistrates court, where the Collaery case is being heard, does not sit between December 20 and 9 January 2019, aside from bail and emergency care hearings.

The handling of the brief has prompted crossbench senator Rex Patrick, a staunch supporter of Collaery, to accuse commonwealth prosecutors of breaching their obligations to act fairly.





Australia/Timor Leste: Closed proceedings in ‘Witness K’ case a matter for court: Christian Porter

January 4, 2019

The federal government has flagged the likelihood of the case of a former spy and his lawyer accused of conspiracy being held in closed court to protect information it says could prejudice national security.

Witness K – a former operative for the overseas spy agency the Australian Secret Intelligence Service – and his lawyer Bernard Collaery were charged in June with conspiring to release secret ASIS information, after they blew the whistle on a 2004 operation to plant listening devices in the cabinet room of Timor-Leste’s government.

The bugging operation came during negotiations with the Howard government to settle the maritime boundary that would carve up lucrative oil and gas rights between the two countries.

Mr Collaery had been representing Timor-Leste in its dispute with Australia.In November, ACT Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker adjourned the case while Attorney-General Christian Porter determines if the brief of evidence against the pair contains material related to national security information.

Such a move could see the trial held behind closed doors, while provisions of the National Security Information Act could see lawyers for the defendants excluded from hearings if they do not have the required security clearance.Lawyers for Mr Collaery, a former ACT attorney-general and deputy chief minister, were yet to undergo a clearance late last year.

The act also allows defendants themselves to be excluded from a hearing.

If Mr Porter deems the brief of evidence is likely to prejudice national security, a preliminary hearing would be held to consider the material in a closed court.





Australia/Timor Leste: And the 2018 Person of the Year is…

December 19, 2018

Australia owes a great deal to the winners of the 2018 Person of the Year.

In 2018, the people we invited our readers to vote for Person of the Year were largely people who pushed back against all that is degraded and hopeless about public life in Australia. This is particularly true of the pair our readers deservedly voted in — a principled stand, a much needed source of hope, or at the very least energy, that hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it demands.

Winner: Witness K and Bernard Collaery

As Bernard Keane wrote back in July, the “Howard government’s bugging of the Timor-Leste cabinet in 2004 is the Watergate of Australian politics, a crime committed by a pack of bullies who believed themselves above the law, not against a rival political organisation that was capable of fighting back through the political system, but a struggling, deeply impoverished neighbour.”





The Philippines: A Wave of Violence Against Lawyers Is Crippling the Philippines’ Justice System

November 20, 2018

The slaying earlier this month of a prominent human rights lawyer in the Philippines who worked on behalf of poor suspects accused of drug-related crimes has sparked a renewed outcry over President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs. The lawyer, Benjamin Ramos, was gunned down by two unidentified assailants on Nov. 6—the 34th lawyer to be killed since Duterte took office in 2016. In an interview with WPR, Imelda Deinla, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s School of Regulation and Global Governance, explains why Philippine lawyers are being targeted and how this wave of violence is affecting the country’s legal institutions.

World Politics Review: What is driving the current extraordinary wave of violence targeting lawyers in the Philippines?

Imelda Deinla: There is really nothing extraordinary about the extrajudicial killing of lawyers in the Philippines. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines has documented at least 200 killings involving lawyers since 2001. What has been extraordinary, however, is the intensity of violence against lawyers since President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration came to power in 2016.

Many of the dozens of incidents of violence against lawyers remain unresolved or even unreported to authorities. But such impunity is nothing new in the Philippines, and it has historically applied to both state and non-state actors. Findings from two separate independent investigations conducted a decade ago—the Melo Commission report in 2007 and the Alston report in 2008—implicated security personnel in the wave of violence that occurred during former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, which lasted from 2001 until 2010. The Alston report specifically mentioned the practice of death squads summarily executing suspected criminals with the participation of police officers. Macapagal-Arroyo’s successor, Benigno Aquino, did little to address the issue. During his administration, dozens of lawyers were victims of extrajudicial killings.

This pervasive culture of impunity has continued under Duterte, whose war on drugs has encouraged a new wave of state-sanctioned violence.










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Australia/Timor Leste: Witness K trial shows authoritarianism is escalating in Australia

November 16, 2018

Bernard Collaery Witness K trial


On the machinations of the Witness K trial

John Richardson writes: If the trial judge in the Bernard Collaery/Witness K trial is persuaded to conduct proceedings in secret, which may have the effect of denying the accused a fair trial, then that judge will have imposed nothing short of an authoritarian system government on this nation and rendered the judicial system entirely redundant. Every member in every parliament throughout the country should be screaming in protest against this corrupt attack on the independence of the judiciary, the base assault on our democratic rights and freedoms and the abuse of power being perpetrated against the accused by the executive.

AR writes: What is the point in letting the accused know the evidence against them — they’d probably deny it and waste valuable court time. Just go straight to sentencing, stop mucking about.





Australia/Timor Leste: Secret Witness K brief to be debated in closed court, magistrate rules

November 9, 2018

Application for open court hearing to judge national security information in Timor-Leste spying case turned down

Bernard Collaery

The undisclosed brief of evidence against Witness K and lawyer Bernard Collaery is set to be the subject of a closed court hearing to judge national security information in the prosecution of the pair for disclosing the fact Australia spied on Timor-Leste.

On Friday whistleblower Witness K and Collaery suffered a setback, with the ACT magistrates court refusing their applications to have an earlier open court hearing on whether protected information in the case is likely to prejudice Australia’s national security.

Prosecutors in the case have given notice the crown’s brief of evidence is expected to disclose national security information, and as a result the court and defendants are yet to see the brief pending a decision on how to handle it.

That notice is likely to trigger the attorney general, Christian Porter, to issue a certificate of non-disclosure which leads to a closed hearing for the court to make its own judgment about whether information is likely to prejudice national security.

The chief magistrate, Lorraine Walker, told the court that laws granting a closed hearing could be “clearly potentially prejudicial to the defendants” because lawyers for the defendants “may not be entitled to be present” if they do not have a security clearance.










Australia/Timor Leste: Witness K lawyers in fight to head off closed court hearing

November 7, 2018

Lawyer Bernard Collaery and Witness K are being prosecuted for disclosing that Australia spied on East Timor-Leste

Bernard Collaery (pictured) and Witness K applied to the ACT magistrates court to hold a hearing ‘as soon as possible’ on national security information.

Lawyers for the whistleblower Witness K and lawyer Bernard Collaery have pushed the ACT magistrates court to make a ruling about national security information in a bid to head off a possible closed court hearing.

After weeks of negotiations, Witness K and Collaery failed to come to a comprehensive agreement with the commonwealth about handling of protected information in the prosecution of the pair for disclosing the fact Australia spied on Timor-Leste.

The director of public prosecutions has given notice the crown’s brief of evidence in the case is expected to disclose national security information. That notice is likely to trigger the attorney general, Christian Porter, to issue a certificate of non-disclosure for information he judges is likely to prejudice national security.

Witness K and Collaery have applied to the ACT magistrates court to hold a hearing “as soon as possible” on national security information, before Porter can issue the certificate which would trigger a closed court hearing on the issue.

On Wednesday counsel for Witness K, Haydn Carmichael, told the court if it held a hearing on national security information the attorney general “ought not feel any concern or need” to issue a non-disclosure certificate.