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American rights activist ordered to leave Indonesia

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — JAKARTA, Indonesia - An American human rights activist and terrorism expert said yesterday that she had been ordered to leave the country within days because of a complaint lodged by Indonesia's intelligence agency about her work.

Sidney Jones, the Southeast Asia director of the Belgium-based International Crisis Group who has written groundbreaking reports on the Jemaah Islamiyah militant network, said she had not been informed of the charges and remained uncertain why she was being deported.

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"We're still mystified, completely mystified by what is taking place," Jones told reporters.

The deportation order has alarmed democracy advocates, who fear the return of the kind of arbitrary and autocratic government actions that were common during the 32-year military dictatorship of President Suharto, which ended in 1998.

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"This is a very bad precedent," said Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent Indonesian lawyer and chairman of the International Crisis Group's board in Indonesia. "This is precisely the policy that took place during the Suharto years.

"We are entering into a dark and gloomy political situation in Indonesia," he said. "This is a broad attack on freedom of expression, on democracy and human rights in Indonesia."

Jones, 52, who once studied in Indonesia and is fluent in Indonesian, worked for more than a decade as Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. She returned to Indonesia two years ago to take the post with the International Crisis Group, which receives much of its funding from foreign governments.

Since her arrival, the group has produced a series of reports on conflicts in Aceh, Papua and other parts of Indonesia, as well as on the Islamic terrorist network, establishing her as a leading expert on Indonesian affairs.

Jones said she had heard through unofficial channels that Gen. Abdullah Hendropriyono, head of the National Intelligence Agency, complained that she had criticized the government for its handling of Aceh and Papua - two remote parts of Indonesia where the military is attempting to suppress separatist movements.

Hendropriyono has reportedly said the human rights group's reports were not all true and damage the country's image, but the specifics of his complaint have not been released.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


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