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Snapshot

  • The prosecution of Bernard Collaery, the former ACT Attorney-General and lawyer for Witness K, the former ASIS officer turned whistleblower, will soon play out before the ACT Supreme Court.
  • The prosecution follows the disclosure of information related to a covert ASIS spying operation and bugging of Timor-Leste’s cabinet offices during negotiations over oil deposits in the Timor Sea.
  • Collaery is contesting charges that he breached s 39 of the Intelligence Services Act.
  • On 26 June, the Court ruled that significant parts of the trial will be held in secret.
  • The case represents a grave threat to legal professional privilege and freedom of expression and in Australia.

After a lengthy delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the legal case that constitutes the most significant threat to freedom of expression in this country will soon play out in the ACT Supreme Court.

This is the prosecution of Bernard Collaery, the former ACT attorney-general and lawyer for Witness K, the former ASIS officer turned whistleblower.

Both are charged under section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001, which deems it a criminal offence for a person to communicate any information that was prepared by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service in pursuit of its functions.

After an ACT Supreme Court ruling last week, significant parts of the trial against Collaery will now be held in secret, but the argument put forward by the attorney-general that certain information in the case must be kept classified is extraordinarily weak.

Collaery’s attorney protested the move, saying: ‘Open justice is an essential part of our legal system, the rights of defendants and of our democracy’.

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