Fri, 03 Jan 2003

Journalist on trial over visa offense

JAKARTA: A man of Arab descent went on trial on Thursday for violating his tourist visa after he was arrested in September for suspicion of having ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

Police arrested the 42-year-old German, Seyam Reda, in September last year on suspicion that he had ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Tapes found in his Jakarta apartment showed militant training camps near the town of Poso in Central Sulawesi where sectarian tension between Muslims and Christian still simmers.

Later police said it could not substantiate suspicion that Reda was linked to Omar al-Faruq, an alleged senior operative of the al-Qaeda and who was also arrested here last June.

"For us, there is no evidence he has any links to terror activity," said a police official who declined to be identified.

Reda misused his tourist visa to work as a journalist in the Muslim-Christian conflict areas of Ambon city in Maluku and Poso, said prosecutor Suharto in court.

The visa violation carries a maximum jail term of five years. Reda's trial was adjourned until Thursday next week. -- Reuters