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IHRC Presses For Release Of Foreigners In Aceh


Indonesia Human Rights Committee Presses For Release Of Foreigners In Aceh

Australian journalist and academic, Lesley McCulloch and American nurse Joy-Lee Sadler have been held by the police in Aceh since September 10. Lesley is internationally regarded as an expert on the conflict in Aceh. IHRC has lobbied the New Zealand government to pressure Indonesia to help secure their release, and to allow entry into Aceh of an international human rights delegation. IHRC is fundraising to help provide first rate Indonesian legal assistance to the pair.

On September 18, the Acehnese police in the capital, Banda Aceh, announced that they had charged the two women under Article 40 of the immigration law, for allegedly abusing their visa conditions. The maximum penalty is five years jail or a fine of 25 million Rupiah.

" The war in Aceh is little known in Australia and New Zealand. There are recent reports of military actions in South Aceh, and of looting and food and medical supplies blockades which have forced villagers to flee. Is this the story that the police did not want Lesley McCulloch to write?, " said Maire Leadbeater speaking for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee.

"Having been detained by Indonesian police and immigration officials myself in Jakarta in 2001 for alleged visa violations which had no basis. I have extra reasons to be sceptical about the charges."

"Human rights advocates in Aceh and around the world have been very worried as police officials have made it clear that they want to make an example of the two foreigners. In the brief communications they have been permitted, both have described abuse, threats and intimidation by the police. They were initially denied contact with their embassies."

"A few days after the women were charged, two prominent leaders of the Aceh civil rights movement were abducted by the military. This followed a mass public prayer meeting which called for a ceasefire between government troops and GAM (The Free Aceh Movement). The government of Megawati Sukarnoputri takes a hard line against the self-determination movement in Aceh, where she has some 60,000 troops and there are daily reports of killings and disappearances. Some 2000 people died last year in the conflict, and the death toll this year is already around 1000. "

"New Zealand should pressure for Indonesia to allow in a human rights delegation, including representatives of Amnesty International, without delay.

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