“An attack on freedom of expression and democracy”: MKOTT petitions for prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery to be stopped. Featured

Bernard Collaery helped the Timor-Leste government build a case against Australia at The Hague, alleging the bugging had rendered the treaty void. Bernard Collaery helped the Timor-Leste government build a case against Australia at The Hague, alleging the bugging had rendered the treaty void. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

By : Sally Rummery 

Tempotimot (Dili) - Activist group, Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) has condemned the Australian government for its prosecution of whistle-blower, Witness K and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, calling it an ‘attack on freedom of expression and democracy’. 

The group has launched a public petition against Australian Federal Attorney General, Christian Porter in protest to the prosecution of the men.

Charges were filed against the two men by federal prosecutors, with Mr Porter’s approval, following the exposure of an Australian bugging operation of Timorese government offices during negotiations over how lucrative oil and gas reserves were to be shared between the nations. 

As Timor-Leste prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary of the 1999 referendum on the 30th of August, it also hopes to officially ratify its Maritime Boundary Treaty with the Australian government. 

The exposure of the Australian secret service’s corrupt and illegal bugging put pressure on Australia to accept, in 2018, a boundary treaty agreed in a facilitated conciliation process under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

In a media conference held last week, MKOTT called on Mr Porter to use his power under section 71 of the Judiciary Act (1903) to immediately put a stop to the prosecutions, saying that it would ruin the relationship between the countries. 

"While Timor-Leste and Australia are about to celebrate this important occasion, we the undersigned note with great regret that the Australian government has continued its prosecution of Lawyer Bernard Collaery and Witness K. These two are heroes of the maritime boundary agreement and thus their prosecution will pollute the celebration and the bilateral relations".

The petition is hoped to have gained the signature of over a thousand Timorese by the end of August.

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