BRITAIN: Lesley McCulloch case debated in parliament

Issue 

BY IGGY KIM

On October 24, a debate was held in Britain's House of Commons over the Foreign Office's handling of the detention of Lesley McCulloch in Indonesia. The debate was initiated by Alan Reid, the Scottish Liberal Democrats member for Argyll and Bute, where McCulloch's parents live. McCulloch is a British citizen and resident of Australia. She is being detained in Aceh for allegedly violating her visa.

Reid cited the long delay in the Foreign Office's response to McCulloch's arrest on September 11. Despite the office being informed on September 12, no British consular official visited her until September 17. According to Reid, consular officials then made only one further visit in early October.

Despite repeated phone calls, McCulloch's mother Mattie was unable to get through to the Foreign Office until September 16. Since then, the Foreign Office has provided little information about her daughter's condition or the progress of the case.

Reid reported that McCulloch's Indonesian lawyers had raised the possibility of transferring her to house arrest. However, according to Reid, the lawyers did not proceed as the police were concerned that the military would try to assassinate her if she was out of police custody.

Reid also recounted how McCulloch's Indonesian captors are "telling her that they can do what they like to her because the lack of consular visits indicates that her government do not care".

In a lengthy reply, the British Labour government's parliamentary under-secretary for foreign affairs, Mike O'Brien, denied Reid's charges and defended his government's handling of the McCulloch case.

A meeting was held between O'Brien and McCulloch's parents. The British-based Indonesian human rights group, Tapol, reports that the meeting was heated. Mattie McCulloch angrily disputed O'Brien's account of the Foreign Office's handling of the case.

ABC radio interviewed one of McCulloch's lawyers, Harry Ponto, on October 31. Ponto stated that police and prosecutors "will only charge her based on the immigration law violation", but "we also have a problem with some parties [who] are interested to bring this case not only for violation of visa, but also espionage". The trial for the visa charge is likely to take place around November 7.

Donations to Lesley McCulloch's legal fund can be deposited at any branch of the Commonwealth Bank. The details are: Account name: Aceh Humanitarian Assistance Fund; account number: 10096013; BSB: 067104; Branch: University of Tasmania, Churchill Ave, Hobart.

For more information visit the Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific web site at <action.org> or phone Iggy Kim on 0421 322 175 or Pip Hinman on 0412 139 968.

From Green Left Weekly, November 6, 2002.

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