France demands Indonesia release divers

4th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 4, 2006 (AFP) - The French government Tuesday demanded that Indonesia immediately release a French diver arrested last month with a German colleague for allegedly carrying out illegal archaeological work.

PARIS, April 4, 2006 (AFP) - The French government Tuesday demanded that Indonesia immediately release a French diver arrested last month with a German colleague for allegedly carrying out illegal archaeological work.

The French foreign ministry summoned the Indonesian ambassador on Monday to voice its "strong protests over the arbitrary detention of our compatriot," according to its spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei.

"We demand that the situation be clarified without delay and that he be released without delay, along with his German colleague," said the spokesman.

Frenchman Jean-Paul Blancan and German national Fred Dobberphul were arrested on March 8, accused of illegally salvaging thousands of treasures from a 10th-century wreck in the Java Sea over the past year.

Last week the men, who risk 10 years in jail, were ordered detained for another 40 days, despite protests from the French and German authorities.

Blancan is currently in an Indonesian prison hospital, suffering from typhoid and dengue fever.

Police claim the men were diving without a proper licence, although their lawyer, the French and German embassies and the Indonesian marine ministry all insist the work was properly authorised.

Mattei repeated that the Indonesian company that employed the two divers was in possession of "all necessary authorisations" for conducting underwater archaeological searches.

The ship's cargo, which includes thousands of pieces of china and ceramic, bronze and gold objects bought from Arab traders and of semi-precious stones, could provide important clues about ancient trading routes and the arrival of Islam in Indonesia, according to experts.

The Belgian head of the archaeology project, carried out jointly with an Indonesian partner, claims that a rival company, assisted by corrupt elements in the police, organised the arrests to gain access to the ship's bounty.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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