News / Asia

Australia Accused of Bullying East Timor in Spy Case

FILE - Australian Prime Minister John Howard (R) and his East Timorese counterpart Mari Alkatiri sit together in Sydney as they await a signing ceremony for the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, Jan. 12, 2006.
FILE - Australian Prime Minister John Howard (R) and his East Timorese counterpart Mari Alkatiri sit together in Sydney as they await a signing ceremony for the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, Jan. 12, 2006.
Phil Mercer
East Timor has accused Australia of violating its sovereignty by spying on its impoverished Asian neighbor during negotiations for an oil and gas treaty in a battle over natural resources. The case is now being heard at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
 
East Timor alleges that spies were used to give Australia an unfair advantage during negotiations over oil and gas revenue a decade ago. The 2006 treaty divides the Greater Sunrise field between the two countries. In East Timor, there has been a feeling that the agreement unfairly benefits Australia at the expense of its poorer neighbor.
 
The East Timor government wants the accord scrapped. It has also demanded at the International Court of Justice at The Hague the return of documents and data connected to the case that were seized in raids by Australian agents on the Canberra home of a lawyer representing East Timor last year.
 
East Timor’s Ambassador to Britain, Joaquim da Fonseca, told the court the agents took important and privileged communications during the raid.
 
"In complete disregard and disrespect of our sovereignty Australian secret agents have seized papers relating to the arbitration proceedings as well as other important legal matters between Timor-Leste [East Timor] and Australia,” said da Fonseca in his testimony.
 
Australian authorities said the raid was necessary, and insisted that the lawyer, who is a former Australian spy, was about to give classified documents to a foreign power.
 
The Australian government has told the court in the Netherlands that the material would only be used to protect national security, and not for commercial gain.
 
Ben Saul, a professor of international law at the University of Sydney, said the case threatens to derail bilateral relations.
 
“The Timorese, of course, were pretty upset by allegations that Australia had bugged its negotiators during the oil and gas treaty negotiations some years ago, and, of course, that does paint Australia in a pretty dim light. I mean [East] Timor was a really poor, struggling country, Australia is one of the wealthiest countries on the planet and here we are trying to get an unfair advantage [in] negotiations that were really central to the economic future of Timor,” said Saul. 
 
Judgment in the case is not expected for several weeks. It comes as Australia’s relations with another near neighbor continue to deteriorate.
 
Canberra acknowledged earlier this month that its navy breached Indonesian territorial sovereignty as part of its controversial policy to stop boats carrying asylum seekers. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the incursions were “inadvertent,” and that the policy of towing asylum vessels away from Australian waters would continue. Indonesia’s foreign minister this week called the policy “unhelpful” to bilateral relations.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More