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Trial begins for U.S. journalist charged with immigration violation

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Trial begins for U.S. journalist charged with immigration violation

  • William Nessen, who was covering a rebel movement in the country’s Aceh province, may face up to five years in prison if found guilty of the charges.

July 24, 2003 — The trial of William Nessen, the U.S. journalist arrested and detained in Indonesia’s Aceh province after surrendering himself to the Indonesian military in June, began Wednesday in Banda Aceh.

Nessen is charged with violating immigration laws by allegedly misstating his intentions for living in the country and failing to notify military or police authorities before traveling to conflict areas.

Nessen was working as a freelancer for the San Francisco Chronicle covering the Aceh rebellion, a 27-year conflict in which rebels with the Free Aceh Movement, known by its Indonesian acronym GAM, have been fighting for an independent Aceh state.

At trial, the prosecution presented Mohammad Nazar, who leads the Aceh Referendum Information Center, an organization that seeks to have a referendum for Acehnese freedom, and three detained GAM members in an attempt to establish links between Nessen and the rebels, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a press organization that has worked on Nessen’s case, the prosecution charged Nessen of having “acted illegally by covering the guerrilla’s side of the war.” When the martial law administration on May 19 began requiring journalists to obtain a special pass to enter Aceh, Nessen was already in the area.

Abi Wright, a spokeswoman for CPJ, said that Nessen may face up to five-years in prison.

“We’re hoping that he is sentenced and then deported,” Wright said. Wright said that a Japanese photographer who also had been arrested and detained in Aceh was sentenced and deported to Singapore. Wright said she did not know where Nessen would be sent if he was deported.

The proceedings will continue through July 30. Nessen is being held without bail in at police headquarters in Banda Aceh, according to a CPJ report.


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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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