AUSTRALIA

Bernard Collaery’s leaking charges over East Timor operation dropped on Mark Dreyfus’ orders

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus ordered the Commonwealth to drop the prosecution of lawyer Bernard Collaery, four years after he was charged with leaking classified information about Australia’s alleged spying operation in East Timor.

Collaery, a former ACT attorney-general, was facing the prospect of jail and his trail date had finally been set for October 24 in the ACT Supreme Court after years of delays.

“Today, I have determined this prosecution should end,” Dreyfus announced at a press conference in Sydney.

He was charged in 2018 under the National Security Information Act with five counts of leaking classified information for allegedly helping his client, an ex-spy known only as Witness K, to reveal information about Australia’s bugging operation of East Timor’s government during commercial negotiations in 2004 to carve up the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.

Bernard Collaery chose to fight the charges after Witness K received a three-month suspended sentence. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

In June 2020, Witness K was handed a three-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty, but Collaery decided to fight the charges against him.

The charges against Collaery and Witness K were authorised in 2018 by then-attorney-general Christian Porter, whose consent was required before the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions could commence proceedings under the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

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Human rights and whistleblower advocates have been urging the Albanese government to withdraw consent for the prosecution, as had a number of crossbench MPs and Senators, including Greens senator Nick McKim, ACT senator David Pocock, Kooyong MP Monique Ryan and Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel.

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