Jakarta releases divers accused of looting

13th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

JAKARTA, April 13, 2006 (AFP) - A French and German diver accused of stealing treasures from shipwrecks in Indonesian waters and held by authorities here for more than a month have been released pending further investigation.

JAKARTA, April 13, 2006 (AFP) - A French and German diver accused of stealing treasures from shipwrecks in Indonesian waters and held by authorities here for more than a month have been released pending further investigation.

Frenchman Jean-Paul Blancan and German 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.

Their detention had caused diplomatic ructions, with Paris summoning Indonesia's envoy and accusing Jakarta of arbitrarily holding the two men.

After his release, Blancan, 53, maintained his innocence.

"Being held, knowing that you're completely innocent, that's what I couldn't stand," he told AFP shortly after his release late Wednesday.

"The two embassies did an amazing job. Tomorrow I will hug everyone," he said, sporting a wide grin.

"If you know you are 100 percent innocent and you are treated like a criminal, it's hard," added his co-diver Dobberphul.

While the two have been released, they remain under investigation, accused of illegally salvaging a cargo including 250,000 pieces of china, thousands of semi-precious stones and bronze and gold objects bought from Arab traders.

Dobberphul said the two had been ordered to check in with police twice a week and not leave Jakarta.

Under Indonesian law, police could take months to complete the investigation before submitting their files to prosecutors, the pair's lawyer Yudhistira Setiawan said earlier.

They face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

The French government demanded last week that Jakarta immediately release Blancan, summoning the Indonesian ambassador in Paris to voice its protest over the detention, which it described as arbitrary.

The Belgian head of the archaeology project, started two years ago in a venture with an Indonesian partner company, has said he believes a rival company — wanting to get its hands on the bounty — was behind the arrests.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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