Former leader of Timor-Leste speaks on Bernard Collaery case

Photo by Gary Ramage/Reuters: Xanana Gusmsao

Xana Gusmao, the leader of the battle of Timor-Leste from Indonesian occupation spoke out on 6 July, about the welcome decision of the Australian government to stop lawyer Bernard Collaery’s persecution, for acting on behalf of whistleblower witness K. His statement is reproduced below in full.

Bernard Collaery after the have been dropped 

I commend the decision of the Government of Australia to discontinue the persecution against Mr Bernard Collaery.

I have written to the Prime Minister, the Hon Anthony Albanese, thanking him and his government for the decision which has been made in the interests of justice and the relationship between Timor-Leste and Australia.

Mr Collaery was being persecuted for alleged breaches of the Australian national security laws by disclosing that the Australian intelligence services bugged Timor-Leste’s cabinet room during oil and gas negotiations. The bugging of Timor-Leste’s cabinet room which was undertaken for commercial purposes, was illegal and unconscionable.

The Timorise people are grateful for the courage shown by Mr Collaery and supported the stand he took in this matter. Mr Colleary and his client Witness K, are greatly respected in Timor-Leste. We recognise their enormous contribution to our struggle to achieve permanent maritime boundaries with Australia in the Timor Sea.

The President of the Republic, His Excellency Jose Ramos Horta, worked tirelessly behind the scenes to provide a number of affidavits to the Australian courts in support of Mr Collaery and was prepared to travel to Canberra to give evidence in court.

I also raised the matter directly with the previous Prime Minister as well as the newly elected Prime Minister, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP. I would also like to thank the Hon Tanya Plibersek, the Australian minister for the Environment and Water, who I met on the sidelines of UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon on 30 June 2022, who showed a profound  understanding of Timor-Leste’s concerns about the prosecution and took such prompt action to raise the matter within her government.

I want to acknowledge the contribution of civil society in Australia, and around the world. Activists, lawyers, academics, Members of Parliament, supporters of Timor-Leste and many others campaigned for years to have this prosecution dropped. This is also an important day for them.

The decision of the Australian government to discontinue the prosecution is just and fair. It is the right decision for the relationship between Timor-Leste and Australia. The decision allows our countries to move in a positive way to strengthen our relationship of friendship and cooperation.

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