French journalists to face trial in Indonesia’s region of Papua next week

INDONESIA, JAYAPURA : Two arrested French journalists Thomas Dandois (C), 40, and Valentine Bourrat (L), 29, from Franco-German television channel Arte are photographed with an unidentified Indonesian immigration official in Jayapura city in Papua province on August 28, 2014. Police have arrested two French journalists on August 7, 2014 who were reporting on the separatist movement in the restive eastern region of Papua. They are accused of reporting illegally, as they only had tourist visas, and could face up to five years in prison and a 500 million rupiah (42,000 USD) fine, Papua province police spokesman Sulistyo Pudjo Hartono said on August 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / STR
JAKARTA, October 14, 2014 (AFP) – Two French journalists arrested in Indonesia’s restive easternmost region of Papua will face trial for an immigration offence early next week, a lawyer said Tuesday.

Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were arrested in early August for reporting on the separatist movement in Papua for Franco-German television channel Arte.

“They will be charged with misusing visa permit in a trial which will start on October 20,” their lawyer Aristo Pangaribuan told AFP, adding that the trial will take place at Jayapura district court in Papua.

Under Indonesian immigration law such an offence is punishable by up to five years in jail, he added.

Dandois was detained at a hotel in the city of Wamena with members of separatist group the Free Papua Movement (OPM), and Bourrat was detained shortly afterwards. They had tourist and not journalist visas.

Foreign reporters detained for illegal reporting in Papua have in the past been swiftly deported.

Indonesia is deeply sensitive about journalists covering Papua, where a low-level insurgency against the central government has simmered for decades, and rarely grants visas for foreigners to report independently in the region.

The OPM has been at the forefront of the fight against the central government in the resource-rich but poor and ethnically Melanesian region.
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