East Timor demands explanation for ASIO raids

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An unnamed former spy turned whistleblower was concerned about the morality of bugging East Timor during treaty talks, a lawyer says.

East Timor's prime minister has demanded an explanation for the Australian Government's decision to authorise raids on a lawyer and whistleblower, were set to give evidence against Australia in The Hague, the ABC reports.

"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.

The former spy who has given evidence for East Timor in its commercial bugging case against Australia alleges he was told to do so by the man who is now boss of ASIO, David Irvine.

East Timor has accused Australia's overseas spy agency ASIS of bugging its cabinet during the sensitive Timor Sea treaty negotiations from 2004, giving Australia an unfair advantage in the commercial talks.

East Timor's lawyer Bernard Collaery has told the ABC their key witness, an unnamed former director of technical operations at the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, has given an affidavit that alleges the then boss of ASIS, Mr Irvine, ordered him to bug negotiations between the two countries.

"I was instructed by David Irvine to take a team to Dili and ensure that the conversations before and after each negotiating session were recorded, transcribed and delivered to the Australian negotiating team," the affidavit reportedly says.

On Wednesday the federal government defended ASIO raids on the home of the former spy and his lawyer's office.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the raids are necessary to protect Australia's national security.

Attorney-General George Brandis personally approved warrants for the raids on the home the former spy, as well as the offices of Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery.

The raids came as Mr Collaery arrived in the Netherlands representing East Timor in The Hague to challenge a billion-dollar oil and gas treaty with Australia.

Mr Collaery says his witness is a decorated senior official who has given a lifetime of service to his country but decided to turn whistleblower after the former foreign minister Alexander Downer become a lobbyist for Woodside.

"He, on retirement, was concerned ... about the morality, if not the legality, of the procedure of bugging the cabinet room of the East Timor government," Mr Collaery told the ABC.

The case begins in The Hague on Thursday, amid claims by Mr Collaery that Australia is trying to muzzle "the oral evidence of the prime witness" by cancelling his passport.

The federal government has defended ASIO raids on the home of the former spy and his lawyer's office this week, saying they were done to protect Australia's national security.

Source AAP

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