Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Indonesia expels terror expert

YOU'RE OUT The world's largest Islamic nation has had enough of Sidney Jones, who helped uncover a network of Indonesian-based terrorists connected to al-Qaeda

AP , JAKARTA

International Crisis Group researcher and terrorism expert Sidney Jones speaks at a news conference in Jakarta yesterday after being ordered to leave the country.

PHOTO: REUTERS

An American researcher whose work helped expose a network of al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in Indonesia has been ordered out of the country for violating her work permit, an immigration official said yesterday.

However, terrorism expert Sidney Jones claimed that Indonesia's intelligence agency was behind the expulsion order because it considered reports published by her group, International Crisis Group (ICG), to be "subversive."

The order represents a blow to freedom of expression in Indonesia, which critics say has been gradually eroded since democratic reforms were ushered in after the downfall of ex-dictator Suharto in 1998.

The government has jailed several student activists and journalists critical of President Megawati Sukarnoputri -- currently seeking re-election -- and other political leaders.

Jones, 52, from Albany, New York, said she was given the deportation order late on Tuesday. It cited immigration violations and was effective immediately.

Her Australian assistant analyst, Francesca Lawe-Davies, 27, was also ordered to leave.

Indonesia's immigration department spokesman Ade Endang Dahlan confirmed the order yesterday, saying Jones had violated the terms of her work permit, but he gave no more details.

Earlier, authorities had said they might not renew Jones' visa, which expires on June 10. It was unclear why the government stepped up its action against her on Tuesday.

"I was devastated to learn that I had to leave Indonesia, but now I am just furious," she said. "I am not sure when I have to leave. I am assuming they'll give [me] time to pack."'

The Belgium-based think tank opened its office in Jakarta in 2000.

In 2002, the group released detailed reports on the activities of the al-Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group in Indonesia at a time when the government refused to acknowledge its existence.

Jemaah Islamiyah was blamed for the Oct. 12, 2002, Bali bombings. Police have since arrested scores of its members.

ICG has also produced critical reports on the government response to separatist conflicts in Aceh and Papua provinces as well as religious violence in Central Sulawesi.

Some officials and diplomats have privately complained that the terrorism reports were alarmist and were so often cited in the Western media that they hurt the country's economy, particularly its tourism sector.

The ICG's president, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, said the expulsion order was served with "a desire to smother legitimate criticism."

"This will do far more damage to Indonesia's reputation than [to] the ICG's," he said. "This is a sad day for those hoping for better from Indonesian democracy."

Foreigners have largely been immune to Megawati's crackdown on critics, although a court jailed British national Lesley Jane McCulloch, an academic critical of the government, for five months after she was caught in Aceh in 2002.

Megawati is currently trailing her main rival in opinion polls ahead of presidential elections scheduled for July 5.

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