Allan Nairn freed, deported by Indonesia

The American reporter who revealed rights abuses in East Timor, detained by Indonesian soldiers last week, is released.


Joan Walsh
September 20, 1999 10:02PM (UTC)

Reporter Allan Nairn, arrested by the Indonesian military last Tuesday and detained five days, was released Sunday and deported to Singapore.

Immigration officials in Kupang, West Timor, said he had entered Indonesia without the correct visa. "In his visa, he is listed as a tourist," immigration officer Surya Pranata told the Antara news agency. "But in reality, he is a journalist and covertly in Indonesia. We are sending him back to his country because he is violating his entry permit."

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But on Friday, U.S. State Department officials in Jakarta had told Salon News that Indonesia's regime -- which had banned Nairn from the country for his assiduous coverage of human rights abuses by the Indonesian military in East Timor -- planned a criminal show trial of Nairn that could have sent him to prison there for 10 years. Days of diplomacy by U.S. officials failed to secure Nairn's release. The full story of why the regime reversed itself is not yet known.

American newspapers had been strangely silent about Nairn's captivity. Although the New York Times reported Nairn's release on Monday, it had never mentioned his arrest. The Washington Post ran a Reuters dispatch last week. The Associated Press reported his arrest and his release but nothing in between.

Upon his release, Nairn told reporters in Singapore Monday that the commander of Indonesia's armed forces, Gen. Wiranto, will determine whether militiamen in East Timor fight U.N. peacekeepers sent to restore order in the province.

"Once Gen. Wiranto gives the order to the militias to stop the terror, the militia will stop," said Nairn, a free-lance reporter for the Nation, Pacifica Radio and the PBS "Newshour." "This has been a tightly controlled army and police operation."

Nairn, who witnessed a massacre of civilians by Indonesian troops in 1991 in East Timor, said the Indonesian military was behind the terror that pro-Jakarta militias inflicted on the East Timorese after they voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia in a U.N.-sponsored referendum on Aug. 30.

While he was detained at Koren military headquarters in Dili, Nairn said, he saw groups of militiamen there, and one of the officers questioning him said they were with the notorious Aitarak militia.

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"You could see them going out on their motorbikes and their trucks fully armed to do their attacks around Dili and it was the same story at Polda, the police base in Dili," he said. "You could see the uniformed Aitarak people wandering in and out of the intelligence and operations rooms, so clearly the militias were operating out of the army and police bases."

Salon News will have the full story behind Nairn's arrest, captivity and release later on Monday.


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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