Witness K Bernard Collaery
Exterior of ACT Magistrates' Court (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas).

Last Wednesday, a group of loyal protesters huddled in the drizzling rain out the front of the ACT Magistrates’ Court in solidarity with former Australian Secret Intelligence Service spy Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery. For many, this was the third time they had travelled to the court, after finding out on previous trips the trial had been delayed. Some thought these delays were a deliberate attempt to evade public scrutiny.

Such scepticism was further agitated when the case was omitted from the court lists. As the clock was reaching 9am, journalists and even Collaery and Witness K’s lawyers were frantically trying to find out which courtroom they were supposed to be in. Now there are serious questions about the whole case being decided behind closed doors.

The question of 'national security'

Collaery and Witness K are charged with criminal offences for allegedly revealing information about ASIS posing as aid workers and bugging the Timor-Leste cabinet to listen in to oil negotiations in 2004. Such actions by ASIS, in quite clear breach of international law, could also constitute a misuse of power under Australian law.