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U.S. journalist surrenders to Indonesian military

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U.S. journalist surrenders to Indonesian military

  • William Nessen, who traveled with and covered rebel forces, was charged with violating immigration laws and is being held by Indonesian police.

June 25, 2003 — Indonesian police detained and charged U.S. journalist William Nessen for violating immigration laws after he surrendered to the Indonesian military Tuesday.

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.

He was charged with violating two sections of Indonesia immigrations laws for allegedly misstating his intentions for living in the country and “failing to notify military or police authorities before traveling to conflict areas,” according to a statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a press organization that has worked closely with the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia for Nessen’s safe passage from Aceh.

In its statement, CPJ said that Nessen did not violate Indonesia’s immigration laws because he was working as a representative of the San Francisco Chronicle and that law requiring journalists a special pass to enter Aceh went into effect May 19, after Nessen already was in the area.

Abi Wright, spokeswoman for CPJ, said that Nessen currently is in the custody of the Indonesian police.

“He is being detained for 20 days. We were hoping he would be detained for the minimal amount like a day or two,” Wright said.

Wright also said that as she understood that a U.S. Embassy official is present during his interrogations.

According to CPJ, the detention can be extended for an additional 40 days during which Nessen would not be eligible for bail. It also said that after the 60 days, police have to send the case to prosecutors for trial.

Wright said that the organization was hoping Nessen would be released once he turned himself in. The Indonesian military said they had no reason for Nessen to be arrested, according to CPJ.

Nessen gave himself up to the military in Paya Dua, a village in northern Aceh province, according to The Associated Press. A U.S. embassy official met with Nessen as he was escorted in an armored vehicle to Lhokseumawe and then transferred to the police in Banda Aceh, the AP reported.


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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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