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American Claims Abuse in Indonesia BANDA ACEH - An American nurse said Tuesday she was struck in the jaw and stomach and a British colleague was threatened with a knife by Indonesian soldiers who arrested them. Joy Lee Sadler contacted The Associated Press from the police station where she is being held in the violence-torn Aceh province of western Indonesia.
She and British academic Lesley McCulloch were arrested on Sept. 10. They were charged with violating their tourist visas by contacting rebels of the Free Aceh Movement - an offense that carries a maximum sentence of five years. Sadler, 57, of Waterloo, Iowa, asked that details of how the interview was conducted not be divulged. She said soldiers repeatedly punched her in the jaw and stomach as she tried to help the 42-year-old McCulloch during their arrest.
Police say the women were carrying documents and digital photos of the Free Aceh Movement - an assertion Sadler denied. An Aceh police spokesman contacted after the interview insisted the women were not mistreated. The rebels in Aceh are fighting for independence of their resource-rich province 1,100 miles northwest of Jakarta, Indonesia's capital. More than 12,000 people have been killed during a decade of conflict.
``The soldiers were yelling at us: 'Where have you been' and 'open your bag.' They were crazy,'' Sadler said, adding that at one point soldiers held a knife to McCulloch's neck. '`They pulled Lesley out of the car. They were manhandling her and I tried to stop them from hurting her,'' Sadler said. ``A soldier hit me with his elbow, and another repeatedly punched me in the stomach.''
Sadler said a sergeant forced McCulloch into a long embrace and then fondled her body, including her breasts, while other soldiers watched, laughed and jeered. Maj. Taufik Sugiono, an Aceh police spokesman, said that in conflict zones, soldiers sometimes ``take strong actions'' and acknowledged it was possible a knife was brandished during the arrest. However, he denied that any beatings or sexual advances took place.
Soldiers also arrested the women's Indonesian interpreter, Fitrah bin Amin, who was later released. She is now hospitalized for depression. Sadler said she suffered severe chest pains on Sunday, was diagnosed with angina and is being treated with nitroglycerin. The women say they have been deprived of sleep, given limited access to U.S. Embassy officials and endured long interrogations.
``An embassy official told me the process could take months. I am so depressed,'' Sadler said, adding police have only allowed one visit by an embassy official. Aceh police have said they want to put the women on trial, but national police say they should be deported. Under Indonesian law, police can hold the women up to 41 days or until they complete their inquiry. Sadler said she expected her case to be limited to the alleged visa violation. McCulloch, however, could face more serious charges, she said.
``For Lesley, it could be tougher,'' Sadler said. McCulloch has contacted her mother to say she feared being accused of espionage. Sadler said she and McCulloch have been sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a windowless room.
McCulloch, who had just finished a year in Asian studies at the University of Tasmania, has said she was in Aceh to research a book on the separatist conflict. Sadler told rights workers she and McCulloch intended to go to the resort island of Banyak. However, when they could not find a boat to go there, Sadler said she went to a nearby refugee camp to treat children and the elderly.



Posted in Aceh conflict @ 25 September 2002 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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