Reporters held in Papua could face trial

Two French journalists detained while reporting on the separatist movement in Indonesia's Papua province could face five years jail if they go to trial.

Two French journalists arrested in Indonesia's Papua while reporting on the separatist movement are likely to go on trial and could face five years in jail, their lawyer says.

Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were detained at the start of August while making a documentary for Franco-German television channel Arte in the restive eastern region.

They are accused of breaking immigration laws - as they had tourist, not journalist, visas - and police said previously if found guilty they could be jailed for up to five years.

Indonesia is deeply sensitive about journalists covering Papua, where a low-level insurgency against the central government has simmered for decades, and rarely grants visas for foreigners to report independently in the region.

Foreign reporters detained for illegal reporting in Papua have in the past been swiftly deported. However Aristo Pangaribuan, the lawyer for the French journalists, says a trial is looking likely.

"There is a huge possibility that both of them will go into trial," he told AFP in an email.

Gardu Ditiro Tampubolon, the immigration chief in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, said there was "strong evidence" against the pair.

"We are certain they have committed an immigration violation," said Tampubolon, whose department is investigating the journalists. The pair are being held at an immigration facility in Jayapura.

It was not clear when a trial might start but Tampubolon said that investigators would likely submit in two weeks a case file to prosecutors, who will have the final decision on whether the case proceeds to court.

After the file is submitted, it would still take some time before a trial begins.

Tampubolon said the pair had admitted to breaking visa rules.

Dandois was detained at a hotel in the city of Wamena with members of separatist group the Free Papua Movement (OPM), and Bourrat was detained shortly afterwards.

The OPM has been at the forefront of the fight against the central government in the resource-rich but poor, ethnically Melanesian region.

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