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Ramos-Horta calls on Australia to drop prosecution against Witness K and lawyer Bernard Collaery

ABC News - July 30, 2018

Steve Cannane Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of East Timor Jose Ramos-Horta says charges should be dropped against two men who exposed Australia's spying operation on the East Timor cabinet room during a lucrative oil and gas deal in 2004.

Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery and former intelligence agent Witness K are facing prosecution on charges of breaching the Intelligence Services Act five years after details of the operation were initially reported in the media.

Mr Ramos-Horta was the foreign affairs minister for East Timor while the sensitive oil and gas negotiations were taking place in 2004 and served as president for the fledgling nation from 2007 to 2012.

"Witness K and the barrister Bernard Collaery did not commit an act of treason in a situation of war between Australia and China or Australia and North Korea," Mr Ramos-Horta told the ABC.

"It was a case of moral conscience... that had zero impact on Australian national security. I say please drop the case and let [Witness K and Mr Collaery] continue their lives normally."

Mr Ramos-Horta believes East Timor created a precedent in dropping its case against Australia at the UN's International Court of Justice over the Dili spying operation.

"We agreed to drop the case with the International Court of Justice, the espionage case, on the condition that negotiations start on the maritime boundary," he said.

"Australia agreed to that, so I think it would be fair [to drop the current prosecution]."

While Attorney-General Christian Porter approved the prosecution, it would be highly unusual for him to now withdraw that approval.

Mr Porter was unavailable for interview, but at a media conference today he reiterated that he acted on advice that came from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

"The advice [from the DPP] that I received was thoughtful, detailed. It was very considered advice," Mr Porter said.

"I can't really put it much higher than that, than simply to say that an independent officer of the government in Australia, being the DPP, acting at the highest levels provided submission to me.

"The submission recommended the prosecution of two individuals. I consented to that prosecution. Other than saying that, there is very little that I can go into further."

Mr Ramos-Horta is in Australia to launch a book of his collected speeches.

When he returned to the capital Dili he said he planned to recommend the two Australians be nominated for the Order of Timor-Leste the same award that Governor-General Peter Cosgrove received after leading the International Peacekeeping Mission in 1999.

"I compare Witness K and Bernard Collaery to the many friends of Timor-Leste in Australia in Portugal, in the US, Japan... who Timor-Leste, as a country, have honoured in the past with the highest decoration from our President and they are considered among the people who are at the forefront of the fight for justice."

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-30/ramos-horta-calls-on-australia-to-drop-spying-exposers-charges/10052546.

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