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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 August, 2003, 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK
US reporter in Aceh freed
American journalist, William Nessen
Initially, Nessen was accused of spying
A freelance American journalist arrested in June while reporting on the separatist war in Indonesia's Aceh province has been freed.

William Nessen, 46, had been sentenced to 40 days in jail including time served for immigration offences.

"He was released this morning and we are on our way to Jakarta," his lawyer Amir Syamsuddin told the French news agency AFP.

The Banda Aceh District Court sentenced Mr Nessen on Saturday, but because of the time he had already spent in detention, he could leave the jail on Sunday.

Accompanied by a US embassy official, and according to some reports looking slightly pale and weak, he flew from Aceh to the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Asked whether he will return to Aceh, Mr Nessen told reporters that he wanted to spend time with his parents in New York before making any decision.

Mr Nessen was arrested in June after spending several weeks travelling with separatist rebels.

'Embarrassment'

The Indonesian Government launched a military offensive in Aceh on 19 May, aimed at crushing the rebel movement. The province has been under marshal law ever since.

Mr Nessen gave himself up to the Indonesian military authorities reluctantly.

In the days leading up to his arrest, he told journalists he was scared that if he tried to part company with the rebels in the middle of the fighting, he would either be shot by Indonesian soldiers, or arrested on false charges.

Initially, Indonesian security forces said they suspected Mr Nessen of spying.

In the end, he was been found guilty of minor immigration violations; failing to report his whereabouts to the authorities and having an out of date home address on his visa.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta says the relatively light sentence handed down to Mr Nessen may reflect a desire on the part of the authorities to get him out of Indonesia as soon as possible.

His case has attracted a good deal of publicity, highlighting the difficulties faced by journalists in trying to cover the conflict in Aceh.




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