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The Canberra Times

Collaery set to call on Timorese presidents again

Jose Ramos-Horta, who is due to become East Timor's president for the second time this Friday. Picture: Getty Images

Whistleblowing Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery hopes to call further evidence from two former presidents of East Timor, including one who is set to return to the nation's top job this week.

Jose Ramos-Horta and Xanana Gusmao previously provided affidavits for Collaery as the 77-year-old, who is charged over the exposure of an Australian espionage operation in East Timor, pushed for an open trial.

Justice David Mossop ended up ruling that significant parts of the eventual ACT Supreme Court trial, described by Collaery's solicitor Christopher Flynn as "essential", would be held behind closed doors.

The ACT Court of Appeal later upheld an appeal by Collaery against this decision, but the question of exactly how much of the case will be aired openly remains unanswered.

Justice Mossop recently decided to allow Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to rely upon so-called "court-only evidence", which is so secret Collaery and his legal team are not allowed to see it.

The judge will take this material into account when determining the extent to which national security considerations require the court to be closed to the public during Collaery's trial.

Bernard Collaery outside court last year. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

One of Collaery's barristers, Phillip Boulten SC, told a procedural hearing on Wednesday that the 77-year-old wished to provide further evidence from Mr Gusmao and Mr Ramos-Horta, the latter of whom is due to resume the Timorese presidency on Friday, before this issue was determined.

While Senator Cash's barrister, Tim Begbie QC, argued this "second bite at the cherry" should not be permitted, Mr Boulten claimed it would be "entirely inappropriate" for the court not to allow it.

Justice Mossop will decide whether or not to accept the proposed new evidence at a later date.

Also on Wednesday, Justice Mossop refused an application by Collaery's lawyers for an extension of time in which to file an appeal against a decision handed down earlier this week.

On Monday, Justice Mossop set aside subpoenas Collaery had issued to federal government entities, including the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, ruling they had "no legitimate forensic purpose" because authorities did not need to prove the lawfulness of the 2004 bugging operation.

While Mr Begbie and prosecutor Christopher Tran did not oppose Collaery being given longer than would usually be allowed to appeal, Justice Mossop said this would be inappropriate.

In another development, some four years after Collaery was charged, Justice Mossop indicated trial dates would be set by the Supreme Court registrar next Thursday.

The trial does start is expected to take three weeks.

Collaery, a former ACT attorney-general, is pleading not guilty to four charges alleging he breached the Intelligence Services Act by revealing classified information in media interviews.

He is also fighting a single charge of conspiring with the former spy known as Witness K to share such information with the government of East Timor.

Collaery previously acted as a lawyer for Witness K, who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and received a suspended three-month jail sentence last year.