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U.S. analyst deemed Indonesia security threat

Indonesia said Monday that an American expert on terrorism and Islamic militancy in the region had been banned from returning because her public comments made her a security threat.
/ Source: Reuters

Indonesia said on Monday that an American expert on terrorism and Islamic militancy in the region had been banned from returning because her public comments made her a security threat.

Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin also said the decision to stop Sidney Jones, Indonesia director of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), from entering Indonesia had been based from intelligence and police information.

“The information and thoughts from various departments conclude that Sidney Jones is being barred to enter Indonesia for our security,” Awaluddin told a news conference.

“We are not talking about security in a physical sense but security in relation to the stability of our life in the form of public opinion,” Awaluddin said without elaborating.

Jones, a long-time resident, speaks fluent Indonesian and is a leading analyst on Indonesian affairs, especially on the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network, a regional offshoot of al-Qaida. She is quoted frequently in foreign and domestic media.

She was barred from entering Indonesia and sent to Singapore last Thursday after returning from a short trip to Taiwan where she had accepted an award from TIME Magazine on behalf of the ICG for its work on conflict prevention and resolution.

Reached by telephone, Jones, 53, said no one in the Indonesian government had told her what she had done wrong.

“If there were any problems with anything I said I would have thought the appropriate thing to do would be to approach me directly and seek clarification,” Jones said.

“It seems to bode ill for freedom of expression if comments made publicly are considered a threat to security. I don’t even know what comments I made.”

Jones was expelled in June 2004 under a different administration after a series of hard-hitting reports on terrorism in Indonesia. In July this year, she was allowed back to live in Indonesia.

The ICG has condemned the latest expulsion.

Earlier this year, Indonesia also barred Australian academic Edward Aspinall, an expert on the civil conflict in Aceh province and a frequent visitor to Indonesia.

In Aspinall’s case and Jones’s earlier expulsion, the government had defended its right to admit whom it chose but officials had been vague about precisely what either had done.

On Monday, Awaluddin reiterated the authorities’ view that Indonesia had a right to ban anyone from entering the country.

Entry bans were common practice during decades of authoritarian rule by former President Suharto, who was forced to resign more than seven years ago.