Jail sought for British journalists over Indonesia piracy film

Neil Bonner, 32, and Rebecca Prosser, 31, have been proven guilty of misusing their tourist visas

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Indonesian prosecutors on Thursday recommended that two British journalists on trial for trying to make a documentary about piracy without the correct visas be sentenced to five months in jail.

Prosecutor Bani Ginting told Batam district court that Neil Bonner, 32, and Rebecca Prosser, 31, had been proven “legally and convincingly guilty” of misusing their tourist visas for “inappropriate activity”.

“Each of them should be jailed five months... and fined 50 million rupiah ($3,700),” he said.

Having no previous convictions, being cooperative and expressing regret for their actions were mitigating factors, he said.

Foreign journalists wanting to report in Indonesia must get a special visa. However, foreign reporters detained in Indonesia for illegal reporting in the past have been deported immediately or handed short prison terms.

The pair arrived in Indonesia in May to shoot the film for production house Wall to Wall with funding from National Geographic, according to their indictment.

It added they had hired several Indonesians to act out a scene of a tanker being boarded by a group of pirates off Batam. The island is in the Malacca Strait, a major shipping lane.

Later Thursday, their lawyer Aristo Pangaribuan called for the court to free the pair, claiming prosecutors lacked evidence.

“The charges could not be proven. Why? They did not define clearly what activities committed by our clients that were considered violations,” he told the court.

Pangaribuan also argued that many people were involved in the case, hence making it difficult to pinpoint who the “main perpetrators” were.

“We call on the court to release them immediately,” he told AFP after the trial.

The next hearing is expected on October 26.