Accessibility links

Indonesian Embassy in Australia Forced to Shut Down

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

The Indonesian embassy in Australia has been shut down after receiving a suspicious package that was later found to contain a biological agent similar to anthrax.

Twenty-two employees at the Indonesian embassy in Canberra will have to remain in isolation for 48 hours while further tests are conducted on the powder to determine exactly what it is.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said initial tests show the powder is a type of bacillus bacteria, the same family as the anthrax bacteria.

The Indonesian embassy in Australia has been receiving threats recently, because of the recent trial in Bali of a 27-year-old Australian woman on drug smuggling charges. The embassy had asked for, and received, extra security from the Australian government.

Schapelle Corby was convicted Friday of smuggling more than four kilograms of cannabis into the Indonesian resort island of Bali last October. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Ms. Corby pleaded innocent and her case has transfixed Australia, with her supporters urging a boycott of Bali to protest the verdict and sentence, which have angered many Australians.

Yuri Thamrin, a spokesman for the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs, called on Australians to respect the Indonesian legal system.

"It is really connected with the verdict of Bali court over Schapelle Corby case and of course we really appeal to our friends in Australia to see things not emotionally, because what happened in Bali is a due process of law of Indonesia, this is a democratic country, like in the U.S., the executive cannot interfere with the process in the court," he said.

The Australian Prime Minister John Howard and the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer strongly condemned the act.

Opposition leader Kim Beazley joined the outrage.

"This is a disgraceful act to be condemned by all Australians," he said.

Mr. Yuri with the Foreign Affairs Department says Indonesia has noted the Australian leaders' condemnation of the incident.

"And we appreciate their commitment to give the best protection for us," he said.

Ties between the two governments have been warming the past few years, after several years of stormy relations.

Canberra angered Jakarta in 1999 when it sent peacekeepers to protect East Timor, which had just voted for independence from Indonesia. Australia also had criticized Indonesia's human rights record.

But in October 2002, two bombs ripped through bars on Bali, killing 202 people, 88 of them Australians. Since then, the two governments have cooperated to combat regional terrorism. Also, the Australian government and the country's citizens have given hundreds of millions of dollars to help Indonesia recover from last December's tsunami.

XS
SM
MD
LG