Thu, 03 Jul 2003

Nessen's mother wants to see detained son

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

American freelance journalist William Nessen, who is jail in Aceh for visa violations, has received more support from a new front, his mother, but she, like all other foreigners, have been barred by the military from traveling to the province.

According to Nessen's lawyer Amir Syamsuddin, Nessen's mother, Hermine Nessen, arrived in Jakarta last Friday. However, she has not been able to get clearance from the Aceh martial law administration to visit her son.

"She has been in the country since Friday, but with the new regulations, it is difficult for any foreigner to enter Aceh. I wish the government could accommodate a mother's wish to see her son," Amir told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Nessen has been in detention at the Aceh police headquarters in Banda Aceh since June 25 when he handed himself over to the military. He had been traveling with a group of Free Aceh Movement (GAM) fighters since at least early May, a few weeks before the imposition of martial law on May 19 and the draconian regulations against foreigners and journalists came into effect.

Currently, he is still undergoing interrogation for possible visa violations for covering the war, presumably from the separatists' side, which was declared verboten by the authorities in late May.

United States Embassy spokesman Stanley Harsha said a member of its consular staff would continue to stay in Aceh to accompany Nessen during the ongoing legal process to ensure that none of Nessen's civil rights were violated during the proceedings.

Harsha said that Nessen entered Indonesia with a valid journalist visa and he was doing his job as a reporter in Aceh.

"I do know that he was here with a journalist visa and he was in Aceh as a journalist doing the common things that a journalist does," Harsha told the Post.

Amir Syamsuddin said that he expected the interrogation against Nessen would be completed in the next few days.

"As soon as the police complete the questioning, I will refile my request to the police to suspend his detention," the lawyer remarked.

The police had earlier denied a similar request.

Under martial law, the authorities can detain a suspect or a witness for up to 20 days, after which the police may extend the detention period.

Amir also said that during the investigation, Nessen was also questioned as a witness in other cases related to GAM leaders, who the authorities claim have been well-acquainted with the American.

"I don't have clear information about the other cases he was asked about," the lawyer said.

Another source told the Post that Nessen was questioned as a witness in a case against Irwandi Jusuf, allegedly a GAM spokesman who sent out GAM statements to the media.

Irwandi was arrested in Jakarta earlier this month.