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French journalists held in Indonesia accused of spying
Publication Date : 15-08-2014
Police in Papua, Indonesia say they have found indications that the two French journalists who have been held in custody since Aug. 6 for allegedly abusing their tourist visas could be involved in espionage.
Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Yotje Mende said on Thursday that the spying allegation was based on the fact that the French Arte TV station journalists — Thomas Charles Dandois, 40, and Louise Marie Valentine Burrot, 29 — clandestinely held discussions with alleged members of an armed civilian group led by Enden Wanimbo in Wamena.
“During their visit, they visited and held a discussion at a location thought to be the base camp of the criminal group. There, we once arrested two individuals with links to Enden Wanimbo,” Yotje said at National Police headquarters in Jakarta on Thursday.
He said that investigators grew more suspicious after the journalists were caught “deleting data from their laptops” while in police detention.
“After a case presentation yesterday, we decided to continue the investigation into their alleged spying activities. Aside from that, they will be charged under the Immigration Law for visa abuse,” Yotje said.
According to Law No. 6/2011 on immigration, offenders of visa violations and people who instruct or give others the opportunity to commit the offence could face five years in prison and a fine of 500 million rupiah (US$42,811).
It remains to be seen if the police will charge the couple with espionage, considering that the 1963 law on subversion has been annulled.
The police also based their suspicion of espionage on the fact Burrot held a French government passport and a civilian passport.
Papua Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Sulistyo Pudjo earlier said that during questioning, Burrot claimed that she once worked at the French Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Adding to the police’s suspicions, Burrot could not present any press credentials, while Dandois’ press card expired in 2006.
Sulistyo said that a number of text messages stored in the phones of the two indicated that an Australian, identified only by the initials NC, assisted them in reaching and communicating with Enden’s group.
Enden’s group is notorious for its armed attacks on civilians and police. Its latest attack was allegedly on July 28, in which two police officers were shot dead in Indawa, Lanny Jaya regency.
Yotje said the police, with the help of local leaders, were using the persuasive approach to put an end to violent acts by Enden’s group.
“In a meeting on Aug. 4, pastors, Papua tribal leaders and local figures committed to approaching this armed group. We’ll give them a deadline to surrender. If they decline to do so, we will act sternly against them,” the police chief said.