Sat, 04 Jan 2003

Hospitals in Banda Aceh refuse to treat jailed American nurse

Nani Farida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh, Aceh

Jailed American nurse Joy Lee Sadler was rushed to hospital on Friday but was rejected by all hospitals in Banda Aceh for fears that her HIV illness would spread to other people.

Joy Lee Sadler, who was jailed for four months in Aceh for visa violations, fell seriously ill after 40 days of a hunger strike to protest her detention, Sadler's lawyer Rufriadi said.

"Joy Lee Sadler is very weak ... so we asked permission from the Keudah penitentiary head Ace Hendarmin to allow her to be treated in hospital."

Sadler was taken to Zainoel Abidin Hospital, but moved to Harapan Bunda Hospital as the first hospital was full. However, the Harapan Bunda Hospital refused to take Sadler in for fear that her illness would spread to other patients in the hospital, he said.

Her lawyers were still negotiating with Malahyati Hospital last night but the result was still unknown.

A day earlier, Sadler was sent to Zainoel Abidin Hospital, but nurses there refused to treat her for fear that they would get infected with her illness, according to Samsul of the Aceh Legal Aid Institution (LBH).

The 57-year-old from Waterloo, Iowa, has been infected with HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

Sadler was convicted on Monday of visa violations by contacting Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels. She should be freed next Friday after having served most of her sentence.

Her companion, Scottish-born academic Lesley Jane McCulloch, also stopped eating after a judge sentenced her Monday for the same offense.

McCulloch, who has been a vocal critic of alleged military abuses in the region, received a five-month sentence. The judge ruled that her actions "could have threatened national security and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Indonesia."

Police have detained the women since Sept. 11.

They have stopped eating and are only drinking fruit juice.

Sadler, who continues to smoke, has claimed to have lost 7 kilograms. She has not taken her HIV medicine regularly because her family had been unable to get it to her, Rufriadi said.

Sadler complained that her injuries from ill-treatment by authorities had not healed. Soldiers repeatedly punched her in the jaw and stomach as she tried to help McCulloch during their arrest, she claimed.

She also said she suffered severe chest pains, was diagnosed with angina and is being treated with nitroglycerin.

Both women maintain their innocence. Sadler said she was in Aceh on holiday and said she had treated children and old people at a refugee camp. McCulloch, a former lecturer at the University of Tasmania in Australia, has researched the separatist uprising in Aceh for several years. She said she was not conducting any research when she was detained.

Rebels and the government signed a peace deal on Dec. 9 aimed at ending the 26-year-old war in the resource-rich region.