Parents of jailed journalist still awaiting the start of trial
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The trial of a freelance journalist accused of spying will continue today in Indonesia after a short delay, and his Aspen-based parents are waiting for details.
William Nessen was arrested after turning himself in to Indonesian authorities on June 24, after the government accused him of being a spy for separatists in the island nation’s province of Aceh. Nessen was reportedly covering the conflict in the war-torn province for American newspapers, following rebel troops with the Free Aceh Movement as they fought the Indonesian army.
“We’re all waiting anxiously for an update,” said Nessen’s mother, Hermine.
If her son is found guilty of visa violations and the court credits him with time served, hopefully he would be deported immediately, she said.
Hermine Nessen and her husband, Maurice, have contacted various lawmakers for support in their interactions with the Indonesian government, including Indiana Sen. Richard Luger. Nessen said she has also spoken with New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Maurice spoke to former President Bill Clinton about the issue this week in Aspen. Bill Clinton is in town for Fortune Magazine’s Brainstorm 2003, presented with The Aspen Institute.
“My husband saw Bill Clinton yesterday at Mezzaluna and spoke to him about it,” Nessen said. “He said he was very familiar with it all, and that Hillary had written a letter to Indonesian President Megawati [Sukarnoputri], someone they know well. We have a lot of irons in the fire, but now the legal process has to go forward with our fingers crossed.”
Rebels have been fighting for independence in the oil- and gas-rich province in the northern tip of Sumatra since 1976. More than 12,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict, including more than 300 in the latest fighting.
Nessen said her son frequently interviewed rebel forces, but also spent time getting interviews with government officials in order to show a balanced story.
Just after he was jailed in late June, Nessen visited her son in Banda, the capital of Aceh. She said he was being well cared for and “seemed quite comfortable with people there,” even trying to teach some of the police English.
[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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