Indonesia Seminar on Rights Is Raided

From Reuters

Police said Saturday that more than 30 foreigners, including a 4-year-old girl, detained at a human rights seminar were suspected of immigration violations and would be questioned this week.

Police detained the foreigners, among them 20 Australians, after breaking up a seminar on worker and human rights Friday but allowed them to return to their Jakarta hotels Saturday after initial questioning.

Police confiscated their passports and ordered them to report back Monday.

"They are all suspects for violating the immigration law," Jakarta police spokesman Anton Bahrul Alam told reporters, adding that they were released after their embassies guaranteed all would return Monday.

Each faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail or a $2,230 fine if convicted of immigration violations.

Participants at the seminar, attended by about 300 people, said armed police stormed the hotel on the outskirts of Jakarta, the capital, on Friday afternoon.

Four-year-old Zoe Hinman from Sydney, Australia, was with her parents, officials said.

Among the others were visitors from Japan, New Zealand, Britain, the United States, Thailand, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, Pakistan and Germany, officials said.

Police said most spent Friday night in police detention.

One of the Australian detainees, Helen Jarvis, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales, told ABC radio by telephone that the experience had been unpleasant.

"We have the protection of the [Australian] embassy, which has been very valuable. But the Indonesian friends who organized the conference were beaten up badly, and also one of them has been interrogated," she said.

Police did not comment on the allegations.

Conference organizers accused police of using brutal tactics more in keeping with the authoritarian rule of disgraced former President Suharto. They said police had claimed that the event was aimed at disrupting an impeachment hearing of President Abdurrahman Wahid scheduled for August.

Alam said the seminar was halted because of the presence of the foreigners, who he said had entered Indonesia as tourists.

Foreigners attending seminars in Indonesia usually need to obtain visas beforehand, but many, including Australians, can visit as tourists without visas.

One participant said Friday's raid caused panic.

"Maybe 50 or 60 police stormed into the meeting room armed with guns, including rifles held in an offensive stance," Max Lane, an Australian, said on ABC radio.

"They barked something over a loudspeaker in Indonesian language, creating quite a tense and worrying situation."

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