quarta-feira, 4 de dezembro de 2013

East Timor spying case: PM Xanana Gusmao calls for Australia to explain itself over ASIO raids

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East Timor's prime minister says he is shocked by the Australian Government's decision to authorise raids on a lawyer and whistleblower who were set to provide evidence against Australia in The Hague. 

East Timor will launch a case in The Hague tomorrow to have a $40 billion oil and gas treaty it signed with Australia ripped up. It alleges Australia had the advantage in negotiations because the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) hid listening devices in the Timorese cabinet room in Dili in 2004. 

It claims the operation was ordered by then ASIS boss David Irvine, who now runs Australia's local intelligence agency, ASIO. 

Yesterday, ASIO officers raided the Canberra office of East Timor's lawyer Bernard Collaery - who is currently in the Netherlands preparing for the case - and cancelled the passport for a retired Australian spy expected to give evidence after his house was also raided. 

The existence of the whistleblower, a former director of technical operations at ASIS, was a secret known to only a handful of officials and lawyers until the raids yesterday. This afternoon, East Timor's prime minister Xanana Gusmao issued a statement calling on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to explain himself and guarantee the safety of the whistleblower. 

"The actions taken by the Australian Government are counterproductive and uncooperative," Mr Gusmao said. 

 "Raiding the premises of a legal representative of Timor-Leste and taking such aggressive action against a key witness is unconscionable and unacceptable conduct. "It is behaviour that is not worthy of a close friend and neighbour or of a great nation like Australia." 

The lawyer whose office was raided says the Australian Government is attempting to muzzle "the oral evidence of the prime witness" by cancelling his passport. 

"What do you think the tribunal [at The Hague] is going to think of it?" Mr Collaery said on Tuesday. Mr Collaery says the alleged spying during negotiations amounts to "insider trading". "If this had happened in Bridge Street, Collins Street, Wall Street, people would go to jail," he told Lateline. 

Attorney-General George Brandis has confirmed he approved the warrants to conduct the raid, but denied it was conducted to affect the arbitration at The Hague. 

Australia offered to renovate East Timorese government building 

East Timor claims ASIS used the cover of Australia's aid program to spy on sensitive information during the 2004 oil and gas negotiations. 

The two countries were working on a deal worth tens of billions of dollars to share revenue from the oil and gas deposits under the Timor Sea, called The Greater Sunrise fields. 

 Woodside Petroleum, which wanted to exploit the field, was working hand in glove with the Howard government and senior ministers to score the best possible deal. New details from the whistleblower shed light on the alleged spying. 

A decade ago, under an Australian aid program, the seat of government on the Dili waterfront was given an expensive renovation. But the gift was allegedly a kind of Trojan horse. 

East Timor claims in May 2004 ASIS agents posing as site workers started planting listening devices inside the walls of the cabinet room, two offices away from the chamber occupied by the prime minister. 

They returned in July and again in August, presumably to check and maintain their eavesdropping equipment before removing all trace of their activity by December, when the operation ended. 

Abbott says raids were in national interest 

 Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended the ASIO raids, saying they were in the national interest. 

"We don't interfere in cases, but we always act to ensure that our national security is being properly upheld. 

That's what we're doing," he told reporters in Canberra. A Greens motion in the Senate, calling for Senator Brandis to explain the raids, failed after a short debate. 

"This is a very disturbing allegation," Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt said. 

"If it's true, it seems that George Brandis seems to think he's J Edgar Hoover and is able to throw warrants around like confetti. "There needs to be a full explanation from our Attorney-General."

 Analysis from case expert Damien Kingsbury 

 The problem is that the [maritime] areas that have been agreed to would ordinarily be wholly under Timorese jurisdiction had the boundary been drawn halfway between the two countries. 

That's to say: if Australia had recognised the Convention of the Law of the Sea and drawn the boundary halfway between the two countries, East Timor would get 100 per cent of all of the [oil and gas] reserves, as is its right under international law. 

But under the current arrangement it gets half of the income of the reserves in somereas, and 90 per cent of the income from reserves in other areas. 
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