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American Journalist With Aceh Rebels 'Surrenders'

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Journalist leaves Aceh rebels
Story from BBC NEWS:

NISAM, Indonesia (AP/Pacific Media Watch): An American holed up with rebels in Aceh province presented himself Tuesday to Indonesia's military which has threatened to prosecute him for allegedly spying.

William Nessen, who says he is a journalist, has been with the rebels since Indonesia launched its latest offensive against the insurgents on May 19.

The military has repeatedly demanded he leave the rebels, and have questioned whether he is really a journalist, a rebel supporter or a spy.

Looking thin but healthy, Nessen was met by a U.S. Embassy official and a senior officer from the Indonesian military when he gave himself up in Paya Dua village in the north of the province, said an AP reporter at the scene.

Nessen said nothing while he was put into an armored vehicle and taken away to an undisclosed location. It wasn't immediately clear whether he would be charged.

Nessen, a 46-year-old New York native, has tried to negotiate safe passage from Aceh over recent weeks. Several U.S. officials have reportedly asked the government to guarantee his safety.

-Edited by Ryan Woo


BBC NEWS Journalist leaves Aceh rebels

An American freelance journalist who spent several weeks with separatist rebels in the Indonesian province of Aceh has given himself up to Indonesian troops.

William Nessen was warned two weeks ago that the military could not be held accountable for his safety if he remained with the rebels during the current offensive against them.

Indonesian officials also questioned whether Mr Nessen should be regarded as a journalist or a spy.

Indonesian television showed pictures of a thin-looking Mr Nessen with a US military official and Indonesian soldiers after he arranged a jungle rendezvous.

The operational commander in Aceh, Brigadier General Bambang Darmono, said Mr Nessen would be interrogated about his activities.

"I will ask (him) a few things," he told reporters. "After he has been checked here, he will be taken to Banda Aceh (the provincial capital) and handed over to police."

Mr Nessen, who travelled to Aceh with a journalist visa, had previously said he wanted guarantees on his safety before meeting military officials.

The Indonesian authorities have imposed tight restrictions on reporting in the province.

Last year, a Scottish academic and an American nurse were accused of supporting the rebels. The pair were eventually imprisoned for four months for visa violations.

Since the offensive in Aceh began on 19 May, the Indonesian military has recorded the deaths of 255 rebels and 106 civilians.

Human rights groups and journalists in Aceh have alleged serious human rights abuses during the campaign, and the Indonesian human rights commission is currently investigating allegations of a mass grave in the Bireun district of Aceh.

Embargo call

On Tuesday, human rights groups from around the world called for an international military embargo on Indonesia.

"Given the backdrop of mounting casualties, wanton killings and human rights abuses attributable to the TNI (armed forces) in Aceh and Papua (another province), we believe it is intolerable for governments to engage with the TNI on a business-as-usual basis," the statement by 90 groups and individuals said.

It came a day after the Indonesian military said it had begun using British-made Scorpion tanks in the Aceh offensive.

Military officials said the vehicles would primarily be used to safeguard road transport from rebel ambushes.

But an Indonesian military spokesman in Aceh told Reuters news agency that the tanks could be used to "wipe out" the Gam rebels .

Meanwhile, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said on Monday that she was still hoping for a negotiated settlement to the Aceh conflict.

She was speaking during an official trip to Japan, where she is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for a summit aimed to boost investment in Indonesia.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/06/24 07:47:22 GMT



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