Australia

Witness K to plead guilty over spy case as lawyer faces trial

Supporters of lawyer Bernard Collaery and 'Witness K' stage a protest outside the Supreme Court in Canberra, Tuesday, August 6, 2019. Source: AAP

An ex-spy will plead guilty to revealing information about Australia bugging East Timor's cabinet rooms in 2004, but his lawyer will fight the charge.

A former spy will plead guilty to revealing information about Australia bugging East Timor's cabinet rooms in 2004, splitting his case from his lawyer, who will instead face trial.

The former intelligence officer, known only as Witness K, has been accused along with his lawyer Bernard Collaery, who is fighting the charge.

The pair's case will now be dealt with separately, with Witness K to face a sentence hearing at the ACT Magistrates Court which was told on Tuesday he would plead guilty.

His case is listed for mention on August 29.

Lawyer Bernard Collaery addresses the media outside the Supreme Court in Canberra, Tuesday, August 6, 2019.
Lawyer Bernard Collaery addresses the media outside the Supreme Court in Canberra, Tuesday, August 6, 2019 (AAP)
AAP

Collaery will instead face trial in the ACT Supreme Court, after last week indicating he wanted the matter dealt with by the higher court.

He will face the ACT Supreme Court on August 22.

In a written statement handed to reporters outside the Magistrates Court on Tuesday, Collaery said "mighty forces are at play here to hide dirty political linen".

It is a "national disgrace" to see Witness K treated in such a way, he says.

The bugging took place during negotiations over a gas and oil treaty.

Charged in June 2018, both defence teams have been wrangling with the Commonwealth over a set of orders controlling what information can be revealed during the trial.

"In providing Witness K with advice it became apparent that the misconduct complained of was a culture unrelated in any way, and, in fact contrary to Australia's national security interests," the statement says.

"It was a cheating culture motivated by commercial interests and an abuse of process to utilise our service men and women in its implementation.

"It threatened to undo the great work done in Timor-Leste by our defence forces, in which I am proud to have two family members serving."

Collaery says the accusation that Witness K conspired with him is "contemptible", adding that he is still waiting to be able to explain his case to his lawyers after 14 months.

"I can say no more because I am silenced by a law we gave our political leaders to fight terrorism," he said.

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