Banjir Ambarita, Jakarta – Two French journalists arrested in Papua for operating without journalism visas should serve four months in jail and face a cursory $200 fine, prosecutors in the region said on Thursday.
"It's the maximum request and we hope it will be a lesson for foreigners to not violate their visas in Indonesia," lead prosecutor Sukanda said.
Thomas Charles Dandois, 40, and Marie Valentine Bourrat, 29, were arrested on Aug. 6 with three alleged members of the separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM).
Indonesia has sealed off Papua to foreign correspondents, ostensibly because the region is unsafe. Activists however say the regulation is in effect to prevent publication of human rights violations that could lead to greater international pressure on Jakarta.
The two journalists' lawyer, Aristo Pangaribuan, expressed relief that the prosecution had not called for the maximum five-year prison term.
"I'm sure my clients are innocent, and hopefully they will be released when the verdict is handed down on Friday," Aristo said. "Even the [Indonesian] Press Council has recommended they be deported instead of being punished."
At Thursday's hearing, the defendants said they traveled to the country's easternmost provinces after landing at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. From Sorong in West Papua they traveled to Jayapura and Wamena in Papua province.
They admitted they met the president of the self-proclaimed Federal Democratic Nation of West Papua, Forkorus Yoboisembut, in Jayapura and tribe leader Areki Wanimbo. They had a short discussion and undertook some filming.
During the court hearing, both French nationals apologized and admitted that they had made a mistake and wanted to go home.
Yoseph Adi Prasetyo from the Press Council previously said that the pair's work was not journalism and should be viewed as research, given that nothing had been aired or published.
"Journalistic activities should be published and their works have not been published," he said. "We hope they will not be jailed, but deported as soon as possible."
The verdict is scheduled to be released on Friday.