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Australian pair arrested at demonstration

Sydney Morning Herald - December 12, 1997

Louise Williams, Jakarta – Two Australian activists are in custody after being arrested by Indonesian security forces during a human rights demonstration on Wednesday in the central Javanese town of Semarang.

The Australian Embassy confirmed that Mary Little, 23, and Stuart Munckton, 20, both of Perth, were in contact with their families and embassy officials, but gave no further information.

"We are not in a position to say anything more, bearing in mind privacy considerations. But we believe the matter will be resolved in the near future," an embassy statement said.

The pair were in Indonesia on a study tour highlighting the conditions of the urban poor, organised by the Australian-based Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET), and allegedly joined Indonesian university students in the demonstration.

Semarang's Military Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Suprianto, said the involvement of the Australians was a "clear indication" that East Timorese fighting against Indonesian rule had international links.

Military sources here said the Australians had been taking photographs of the demonstration while visiting Indonesia on tourist visas. It is understood they were being held last night by immigration officials and questioned by police.

ASIET describes itself as an organisation concerned with the promotion of democracy in Indonesia. A spokesperson said Ms Little is a full-time health administrator and Mr Munckton a social science student at Edith Cowan University.

Earlier this year the Indonesian military said it was seeking an Australian national, known only as Jeffrey, who had travelled to central Java where he had taught East Timorese independence activists how to assemble bombs.

This is the second time Australian nationals have been arrested by Indonesian security forces this year. Two senior unionists were arrested in September after attending the congress of an unrecognised Indonesian trade union.

Hundreds of demonstrators supporting the democracy leader Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri faced riot troops in central Jakarta yesterday, chanting anti-Government slogans and calling for a new President. The demonstrators gathered outside the Central District Court, which rejected a case filed by Ms Megawati's supporters seeking compensation for the bloody attack on their headquarters by security forces last year.

Witnesses said hundreds of heavily armed riot police and troops prevented demonstrators from entering a plaza and the march was moving down one of the city's major streets.