French journalists on trial in Indonesia for illegal reporting
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Two French journalists were due in court Monday in the eastern Indonesian island of Papua on charges of “abusive use of entry visas” following their arrest in August for shooting a report on a local separatist movement.
Thomas Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat, 29, were shooting a documentary on the local Free Papua Movement (OPM) for Franco-German TV channel Arte.
They have been detained in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, since their arrest on August 6.
Dandois was detained at a hotel in the city of Wamena along with several OPM members and Bourrat was arrested shortly afterwards.
The pair entered the country with tourist and not journalist visas, an offence punishable by up to five years in jail.
Foreign reporters detained for illegally reporting in Papua have in the past been swiftly deported. But Dandois and Bourrat have already been in custody for more than two months.
Indonesia's central government rarely grants foreign journalists full access to Papua, where the OPM has for decades been waging a low-level insurgency against Indonesian rule.
The French reporters’ arrest this summer followed a series of shootouts in which two policemen were shot dead, an incident that officials blamed on OPM militants.
Prosecutor Sukanda, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told the court on Monday that the pair had entered Papua using tourist visas but had interviewed a separatist leader and reported on the activities of "an armed criminal group", the term typically used by authorities when referring to separatists.
"The accused were aware, or knew, that they were not allowed to use a tourist visa to carry out journalistic activities in Indonesia, and that they needed a journalistic permit ... from the Indonesian government," Sukanda said.
"Both have admitted to having carried out reporting in Papua to find out more about its society, customs, culture and history, and also to find out why armed civilians were fighting against the government," he said.
The French journalists declined to speak to reporters upon arriving at the court.
Their lawyer, Aristo Pangaribuan, said the charge was only two pages long and "not serious", adding that he hoped the pair would be deported soon.
Bourrat's mother Martine was in court for the start of the trial. "I really hope my daughter can return home as soon as possible," she told reporters.
Chief presiding Judge Martinus Bala told reporters that he hoped the verdict would be delivered on Friday.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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