American and British Women Detained in Indonesia For More than Three Months on Minor Charges

Protests to Mark Resumption of Trial

The Indonesian Human Rights Network

Dissident Voice

December 17, 2002



The long-delayed trial of an American nurse and a British academic charged with alleged visa violations in Aceh, Indonesia is scheduled to resume on December 19. Joy Lee Sadler, from Iowa, and British academic Lesley McCulloch have been detained in the strife-torn region of Aceh, Indonesia for almost 100 days. Ms. Sadler began her 20th day of hunger strike today. She says she will continue until the trial is sped up and she is moved from jail to house arrest. Sadler¹s health was already failing due to an HIV-related condition; many people, including her cellmate Ms. McCulloch, are concerned she may die in Indonesian custody.


Sadler and McCulloch’s trial began on November 25, but was adjourned for a day to allow time for prosecution witnesses to travel to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh. When court resumed on November 27, the judge granted the prosecuting attorney¹s request for a postponement of three weeks to prepare his case.


On December 18, the eve of the trial resumption, actions to demand the immediate release of Sadler and McCulloch will take place at Indonesian consulate offices in San Francisco, Austin, Texas and at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington.


A campaign to free the two women has resulted in over 1,000 letters and faxes demanding their immediate, unconditional release sent to the Indonesian Ambassador in Washington, DC.


The two women were arrested on September 10 and have endured beatings, sexual harassment, threats, long interrogation sessions, and other mistreatment. Sadler and McCulloch have been charged with violating the terms of their tourist visas, which normally results in, at worst, deportation. Academics, business personnel, and others routinely travel to Indonesia on tourist visas to attend meetings, conduct interviews, do research, and make business deals.


McCulloch has written numerous thorough, well-researched articles on Indonesian security forces brutality in Aceh. When she was arrested, McCulloch’s laptop computer was confiscated; police have since been combing through it and reading her scathing critiques of their work.


“This case is clearly politicized. These women have been in jail for over three months for minor visa violations. Indonesian officials have said they are going to make an example of the two women. They are trying to frighten anyone who criticizes the Indonesian military or calls attention to its torture, rape and murder of civilians in Aceh,” said Kurt Biddle, Coordinator of the Indonesia Human Rights Network.


The Pentagon and the State Department have rushed to resume full relations with the Indonesian military after ties were almost completely cut by Congress when the Indonesian military and its militia proxies razed East Timor in 1999. The administration is now anxious to cultivate Indonesia as a partner in the “war on terror.” But evidence points to Indonesian military involvement in the August 31 murder of two Americans in West Papua. This and the show trial of Sadler and McCulloch are just two examples that the Indonesian military has not abandoned its casual employment of extreme brutality.


Joy Lee Sadler is a nurse from Waterloo, Iowa who traveled to Aceh to treat the sick and injured in refugee camps. She had previously volunteered in East Timor with Dr. Dan Murphy at the Bairo Pite Free Clinic. She spent her 57th birthday in Indonesian jails on October 16.


Lesley McCulloch is an academic whose work has focused on Aceh. Until recently, she was a lecturer at the University of Tasmania in Australia.


The Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) is a U.S.-based grassroots organization working to educate and activate the American public and influence U.S. foreign policy and international economic interests to support democracy, demilitarization, and justice through accountability and rule of law in Indonesia. We seek to end armed forces repression in Indonesia by exposing it to international scrutiny. IHRN works with and advocates on behalf of people throughout the Indonesian archipelago to strengthen civil society. For more information, see the Indonesia Human Rights Network website,


Available for interviews:


Edmund McWilliams

Former Political Officer at the Embassy of the United States in Jakarta,


(703) 237-3913 home

(202) 487-7496 mobile email


Mattie McCulloch

Mother of Lesley McCulloch

+ 44 1369 702 611 home email


Kurt Biddle

Coordinator of Indonesia Human Rights Network

(510) 559-7762 office

(510) 375-2114 mobile email