East Timor bugging case goes to court

Lawyers for the spy-turned-whistleblower who revealed Australia bugged East Timor's cabinet rooms have argued the case should be heard before an open court.

The case of Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery and his client, known only as Witness K, made its first appearance in court late on Wednesday afternoon.

The pair weren't present in the ACT Magistrates Court for the brief mention as the case was adjourned until October 29.

The small courtroom was filled with ardent supporters of the pair, as people sat on the floor and stood up.

Lawyers for Witness K said it was in the best interests for all involved to remain anonymous.

Earlier, protesters rallied out the front of the court to call for the criminal charges of conspiring to communicate secret information to be dropped.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who has been vocal about the prosecution being an "act of political bastardry", was joined by Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie and Greens senator Nick McKim for the demonstration.

Witness K, a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service agent, was a key witness for East Timor in a case against Australia over allegations Dili's cabinet rooms were bugged during negotiations over a gas and oil treaty in 2004.

The person was supposed to give evidence at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague but was unable to leave Australia because his passport was seized in 2012.

East Timor dropped the spy case against Australia last year as an act of goodwill before signing a new resources treaty.

Australian Associated Press