Witness K, Bernard Collaery case to make first court appearance

The case of a former Australian spy and his lawyer charged with conspiring to breach intelligence laws will be held in open court, for now.

However, the spy known only as Witness K and barrister Bernard Collaery's first appearance on the summons has been listed on Wednesday in the ACT Magistrates Court at the highly unusual time of 4.15pm.

Bernard Collaery addresses the media during a press conference on the East Timor spy scandal, at Parliament House in Canberra in June.

Photo: Alex Ellighausen

The Canberra Times understands the government wanted to have the court closed, but court registrar Jayne Reece said at this stage the proceedings are open to the public.

Ms Reece said the matters had been listed at 4:15pm to suit the availability of Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker.

The charges against the spy and Mr Collaery come more than a decade after Witness K exposed a 2004 Australian bugging operation by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

Australian intelligence officers planted the bugs in East Timorese government offices during negotiations between the two governments to divvy up revenue from oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

When it found out about the bugging, Timor-Leste took Australia to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, challenging the negotiated treaty as invalid.

Australia and Timor-Leste signed a new treaty earlier this year. Federal prosecutors laid the charges - signed off by federal Attornery-General Christian Porter - on Witness K and Mr Collaery a few months later.

Mr Collaery has previously said Witness K raised concerns about the operation through the right channels. He was given approval to speak to a lawyer, Mr Collaery, who represented Timor-Leste in the Hague.

Mr Collaery, a former ACT Attorney-General, has been charged over talks with journalists in 2013 after his home and office had been raided by ASIO officers.

The two men were summonsed to court accused of conspiring to breach section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

The section makes illegal the communication of information concerning the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

The pair face a maximum penalty of two years in jail or a fine.

Mr Collaery has previously said the charge will be vigorously defended.

The case is listed at 4.15pm.

Most Viewed in National