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Detained Photographer Leaves Aceh, Reporter Held

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JAKARTA (AFP/Pacific Media Watch): A Japanese photographer whom police said entered Indonesia's troubled Aceh on a tourist visa left the province Saturday while an American journalist suspected of being a spy for separatist rebels remained in police detention.

Also Saturday a report said the military, for the third time this week, claimed it had uncovered a mass grave containing victims of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels.

After two nights in custody, immigration officers drove photographer Takagi Tadatomo, 25, from North Aceh to Medan in neighbouring North Sumatra province, said Misrie of the North Aceh immigration office.

The Japanese national was arrested Thursday night while taking pictures of refugees fleeing clashes between GAM fighters and government forces waging a war to rid the province of an armed rebellion, the military said.

His detention came a day after American freelance reporter William Nessen was held for police questioning over possible visa misuse. Nessen continued to be questioned Saturday.

Asked about the differences between the two cases, Aceh police spokesman Sayed Husainy said Takagi was not a journalist and his pictures were for a collection.

Unlike Nessen, Takagi did not spend weeks with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels, Husainy said.

Martial law authorities on Thursday imposed strict controls on foreigners' entry to the province. Tourists are banned and journalists, who must have permission from Jakarta to visit Aceh, cannot travel outside of major towns without an escort by security forces.

Police have said Nessen, 46, is being held for questioning about possible visa misuse and could be detained until July 11.

He would also be asked about what Husainy called Nessen's "closeness" to the rebels.

"All is being questioned," Husainy said.

The US embassy says Nessen came to Indonesia with a valid journalist's visa. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said he is an accredited reporter.

Takagi had only been in Indonesia one week after arriving with a tourist visa valid for two months, Misrie said.

There would be "no problem" if Takagi wished to stay in Indonesia outside Aceh, Misrie said.

In a report Saturday the Serambi daily newspaper in the Acehnese capital, Banda Aceh, reported that another mass grave had been discovered in the province.

Serambi said the commander of the Aceh military operation, Brig. Gen. Bambang Darmono, visited the grave in South Aceh district after troops and residents excavated it up.

The grave held the remains of four people and Darmono blamed GAM for killing them in 2001, Serambi said.

Police said Thursday that Darmono had also visited one of two mass graves discovered in Central Aceh. A day earlier the military said it had found a mass grave in West Aceh.

GAM denied carrying out the mass killings.

On June 11 Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission said it would investigate a report, received from its field representatives, of a mass grave in the Nisam area near Aceh's Bireuen district.

The commission said it had no information on who was responsible.

In fresh operations Saturday, soldiers shot dead two rebels in an early-morning exchange of fire in Pidie district, the military said.



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