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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs