East Timorese protest at Australian embassy in spying row

East Timorese protest at Australian embassy in spying row
East Timorese people march during a ceremony to mark the 22nd Santa Cruz tragedy in Dili on November 12, 2013.

DILI, East Timor - Protesters in East Timor demonstrated outside the Australian embassy on Thursday, claiming police fired at them with tear gas, as a spying row between the nations intensified.

East Timor has accused Australia of secretly bugging ministerial deliberations in Dili in 2004 to gain leverage in negotiations on an oil and gas revenue-sharing deal.

The small protest followed a raid Tuesday by Australian intelligence agents on the Canberra office of a lawyer representing East Timor in an arbitration case at The Hague over the deal.

Police and organisers said around 20 protesters, mostly students and young Timorese rights activists, took part in the demonstration.

They carried banners written in the local language Tetum, reading "Australia is a thief" and "Stop Stealing My Oil", drawing a crowd of dozens, an AFP correspondent said.

The demonstrators, calling themselves the Movement Against Timor Sea Occupation, shouted "Australia, imperialist, capitalist", and "Australia is a thief of world oil".

A protest organiser, Juvinal Dias, said police fired tear gas about an hour into the peaceful demonstration, sending protesters fleeing from the area.

A local newspaper, Diario Nasional, on Friday showed a photograph of police officers facing off against a small number of demonstrators as smoke billowed in the street, from what the caption described as tear gas fired by police.

"The Australian leaders do not respect the people of Timor-Leste because it's very small, very poor," Dias told AFP on Thursday.

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