Release Australia's Prisoner of Conscience

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Release WK: a prisoner of conscience detained by Australia

We earnestly call on our new Attorney General to restore the civil rights of the whistle blower known as "Witness K".

A former intelligence officer, “Witness K” has been detained in Australia for over 4 years.  WK has no passport. 

WK’s “crime”: He embarrassed the government.

WK's punishment: He has been made a prisoner of conscience.

What happened?
After decades of bullying, extra-illegal undersea border agreements and other dirty tricks by Australian governments a UN arbitration court in the Hague has granted Timor-Leste its fair share of undersea oil and gas resources.  A new resource sharing agreement was signed on 5th March 2018.

"It is a landmark event for our two nations, but also for international law," Foreign Minister Bishop said. "Both our governments have deemed this to be a just and equitable outcome."

This equitable outcome was only possible due to the courage of the one man who dared to speak truth to power.

Like Andrew Wilkie, who challenged falsified reports used to justify the war on Iraq, this former senior intelligence officer has been branded a traitor for doing his duty. It is forbidden to mention his name.

1972 - 2013:  dirty deals, crimes and misdemeanors
In 1972 Australia and Indonesia agreed on significant maritime border re-alignments which enclosed rich oil and gas deposits on the Australian side of  new borders.   This extended Australian waters three quarters of the distance to the coast of East Timor.  It breached the convention of taking the middle line between two coasts as the border.  This created major international disputes in coming years.  

In 1982 the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea confirmed the median line – the middle or equidistant line from the low water marks of both countries – was  the correct location of maritime boundaries.  

Had Australia agreed to use the conventional mid line between Australia and East Timor the valuable resources it would not have breached convention or international law but it chose to continue ignoring  it.

2013: WK exposes a serious abuse of power by the Howard government.
In 2004 the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) was misused to seek commercial gain for Woodside Petroleum. In the midst of intense negotiations with Timor-Leste Foreign Minister Downer ordered the bugging his opponents' cabinet offices. ASIS officers posing as workmen carried out the operation under the guise of an Australian aid program.  WK was part of that operation.

Our government spied on the privileged discussions of Timorese officials, politicians, international advisors and legal counsel,  and stole sensitive information.

In 2006 a grossly unfair resource sharing deal was struck. Australia’s biggest oil and gas company gained a commercial advantage worth $40 billion over the impoverished island state. This caused an international uproar.

In April 2013 Timor-Leste took the case to the Permanent Council on Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague.

In the same year WK discovered ex politician Downer’s private company Bespoke Approach was being employed by Woodside to provide “consultancy services”.  He blew the whistle on Downer’s black operation.

His affidavit referred to the bugging operation as “immoral and wrong” because it did not serve the national interest, but the interests of big oil and gas.

In the Hague the PCA subpoenaed WK to give evidence. He never made it.

As WK was preparing to fly to the Hague his home was raided on the order of Attorney General George Brandis.   ASIO officers questioned him and seized his passport. It has never been returned.

ASIO officers raided his lawyer’s house on the same day. They seized a trove of evidence and privileged legal documents.

PM Tony Abbott defended the ASIO raids saying it was done in the national interest.

2013-2018: WK’s punishment
WK has been harassed by a government unable to charge him with anything but determined to punish him.  He was declared a security risk.  His passport was seized.  His life has been ruined.  He is effectively under house arrest.

An Appeal for justice
To get his passport back WK launched an appeal in the Security Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.  ASIO and ASIS cleared him for its return but after 4 years the government still resists these proceedings. 

Our government  maintains the fiction that the matter is one of national security, not government accountability, not government malfeasance, not of telling truth to power, not one of looking after your mates, not one of policy making at the behest of powerful corporations, not one of righting an injustice, or of saving face.

Desirable Outcomes
The new resource sharing agreement is a victory for the rule of law, not just at home but worldwide.   This important righting of an egregious wrong is largely due to WK's  lonely stand in speaking truth to power.

Every Australian should be proud of WK.  He maintained the highest traditions of public service, putting duty before self.

Undesirable Outcomes
An ever more authoritarian Australian Government made a prisoner of conscience out of a loyal public servant and citizen.

While this continues no Australian is safe from  government spite.

 Alexander Downer is still Australia's High Commissioner in London.

WK remains under virtual house arrest in his own country.


What now?
It's time to release KW and recognize his sacrifice in the name of justice. 

If enough people are aware of his situation and call on the government to release KW  in an election year we may be able to persuade the new Attorney General to restore WK's civil rights and his passport.

Yours in hope,

Phil Gorman