Mon, 16 Jun 2003

Nessen requests safe passage: Military

The Jakarta Post, Lhokseumawe, Aceh

American freelance journalist William Nessen, who failed to heed the 6 p.m. deadline on Saturday to leave a Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel base, has contacted the military operation commander to request peaceful passage.

Aceh military operation spokesman Lt. Col. Achmad Yani Basuki said on Sunday that Nessen, from his hiding place, telephoned Aceh military operation commander Brig. Gen. Bambang Darmono on Saturday at 6:10 p.m.

Nessen, during the call, asked the military operation commander not to arrest, interrogate or shoot him should he "surrender" to the military, said Yani.

He added that the military commander could meet Nessen's request not to shoot him as he is a civilian, but the commander had maintained that the American journalist would face questioning to explain his activities in the rebel stronghold.

The information from Nessen was needed to prevent similar incidents from recurring in future, Yani said.

Yani said Nessen first introduced himself as a reporter from The Jakarta Post when he contacted Bambang, but the commander, who had met and spoken with Nessen, recognized the freelance journalist over the telephone.

It is reported that Nessen had been traveling with the rebel group since before the military operation began on May 19 in the troubled province.

Yani said now that the deadline had passed, the martial law administrator could no longer guarantee the safety of Nessen should an offensive on GAM bases resume full-force.