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American Nurse Released From Indonesian Prison - 2003-01-10

Indonesian authorities have released an American nurse, who has spent four months in prison, after being arrested for visa violations during a visit to the restive Aceh Province. The nurse is heading back to the United States for medical treatment. Joy Sadler from Waterloo, Iowa, walked out of an Indonesian jail Friday in the city of Banda Aceh. She was arrested in September with her traveling companion, Scottish academic Lesley McCulloch. Indonesian authorities accused the two of using their tourist visas to conduct research into the conflict between the Indonesian Army and the separatist rebels of the Free Aceh Movement.

Both women denied the charges. But in a trial in December, Joy Sadler was sentenced to four months in prison and Lesley McCulloch to five months. The women had served most of the time during their pre-trial detention.

The American nurse, who is HIV positive, went on a hunger strike for more than a month to protest the slow pace of the Indonesian legal process, and her health deteriorated rapidly. She was persuaded to resume eating only last week, after she collapsed and was refused entry into a hospital in the Acehnese capital Banda Aceh because of her HIV-positive state.

Lesley McCulloch is due to be released on February 9.

Joy Sadler says that she hopes to return to Aceh to help the victims of the separatist conflict there.

Human rights organizations say that more than 1,200 people, the majority civilians, died in Aceh last year. But there are high hopes that the violence will abate after the government and the rebels signed a peace deal last month that allows international monitors into the province for the first time.