East Timorese stone Australian embassy in spying row

East Timorese stone Australian embassy in spying row
Australia's PM Abbott, seen here with Indonesia's President Yudhoyono in Jakarta in September, would not confirm allegations that Canberra targeted the cellphones of Dr Yudhoyono and his inner circle.

DILI, East Timor - Around 100 protesters in East Timor threw rocks at the Australian embassy Thursday and police responded with tear gas as a spying row between the nations intensified.

East Timor has expressed outrage over reports that Australia secretly bugged ministerial deliberations in Dili in 2004 to gain leverage in negotiations on an oil and gas revenue-sharing deal.

The 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, expected to be heard Thursday.

The protesters, mostly students and young Timorese rights activists, carried banners reading: "Australia is a thief" and "Australia has no morals", 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".

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

The embassy was guarded with just four police until a dozen more arrived and fired tear gas at demonstrators, saying they had no permit to protest.

Deputy Prime Minister Fernando La Sama de Araujo told AFP he was "not happy" with Australia's actions, adding: "We demand the Australian government stops spying on the lawyer representing Timor-Leste."

East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao Wednesday described the raid on the lawyer's office as "aggressive" and "unconscionable".

The lawyer, Bernard Collaery, called the raid "intimidatory" tactics ahead of a hearing in the case Thursday.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended the move, saying it was to "protect national security".

East Timor argues that the 50-50 profit-sharing deal of Aus$40 billion ($36 billion) in proceeds from the Timor Sea's resources should be torn up because of the alleged spying.

Australia is also trying to mend ties with Indonesia over allegations that it spied on the country's president, his wife and inner circle of senior officials in 2009, sending its foreign minister to Jakarta Thursday for talks.

The claims that Australia spied on East Timor and Indonesia were based on documents leaked by US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden.

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