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Voices From An Indonesian Prison: A Democracy Now! Exclusive!: We Hear From Joy Lee Sadler, a US Citizen and Lesley Mcculloch, a Scottish Professor Who Have Been Imprisoned in Aceh, Indonesia Since Se

StoryNovember 08, 2002
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The Bush administration’s “war on terrorism” has provided fuel for the US to renew military ties with Indonesia. The administration is attempting to restore aid to the Indonesian military, which was cut off in 1999 when the Indonesian armed forces razed East Timor to the ground. The Indonesian army has a brutal record of torture, mass killings and other human rights violations.

Today: A Democracy Now! exclusive. We bring the voices of two women speaking from an Indonesian prison: a US citizen and a British citizen who have been detained now for two months with little hope of being released.

Democracy Now obtained a recording of their voices as they describe the conditions they’re being held under and question why they’re being detained.

Joy Lee Sadler is a fifty-seven year old health-care worker from Waterloo, Iowa. She traveled to the Indonesia province of Aceh to treat the sick and injured in refugee camps.

Lesley McCulloch is an Indonesian Studies professor from Scotland who traveled to Aceh to research a book on the conflict in the oil-rich region.

Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, has the largest natural gas field in the world. The people living in this resource-rich region are calling for a referendum for self-determination. They want independence from Indonesia because of the military’s brutal repression of their people. After the overthrow of Suharto, mass graves were uncovered. Over 1,000 people have been killed in Aceh this year alone. An estimated 12,000 have been killed in the past decade. And the killings continue.

Sadler and McCulloch were arrested two months ago when they tried to travel into the war zone in Northern Aceh.

Since their arrest the women have faced beatings, threats, all-night interrogation sessions, sexual assault and other mistreatment. They have received very little medical attention, inadequate food, and limited access to their lawyers.

In addition, Joy Lee Sadler’s health is quickly failing because she is HIV-positive and is suffering from a serious heart condition.

Sadler and McCulloch have been charged with violating the terms of their tourist visas, which normally results in the deportation of foreigners.

Human rights activists believe Sadler and McCulloch are being singled out because of McCulloch’s criticism of the Indonesian security forces, particularly the brutal repression of the people of Aceh.

Many believe this could be the start of a government initiative to exclude independent observers from conflict areas in Indonesia. Indonesian officials have said they want to make an example of the two for other foreigners.

The Indonesian Human Rights Network has initiated a campaign to protest the Indonesian government’s detention of Joy Lee Sadler and Lesley McCulloch. Fax the Indonesian ambassador at 202-775-5365 or contact IHRN at their website for more information.


  • Mattie McCulloch, mother of Lesley McCulloch, Scottish professor jailed in Aceh, Indonesia
  • Rosilyn Wortham, daughter of Joy Lee Sadler. Wortham works for a substance abuse agency in Waterloo, Iowa. She is the mother of three children. She says her mom turned 57 in prison, on October 16.
  • Stuart Patt, US State Department Spokesman
  • Ed McWilliams, political consul at the US embassy in Jakarta from 1996-1999


  • The voices of Joy Lee Sadler, a US health-care worker and Lesley McCulloch, a Scottish professor speaking from an Indonesian prison.

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