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Protest planned at Australian embassy in Jakarta as spy row grows

Australia warned travelers to Indonesia of a planned demonstration at its embassy in Jakarta on Thursday as anger grows over reports Canberra spied on top Indonesians, including the president and his wife.

Relations between the key trading and strategic neighbors have slumped to their lowest ebb since 1999 after media this week reported that Australia's spy agency had tried to tap President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's mobile phone and those of his wife and senior officials in 2009.

The reports quoted documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Yudhoyono went on national television on Wednesday to announce that he was freezing military and intelligence cooperation, including over the issue of asylum seekers, that has long been an irritant in relations.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in updated travel advisory for Indonesia, the country's No. 2 tourist destination after New Zealand, that a demonstration was planned for outside the Australian embassy.

"Australians should monitor local media, avoid protests, maintain high levels of vigilance and security awareness," it said.

Jakarta police are expecting around 750 protesters at the heavily fortified embassy in central Jakarta, according to risk consultancy group Concord Consulting. The embassy was the target of a 2004 bombing that killed at least nine people.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has not confirmed the spying actions or apologized, but on Wednesday expressed regret for the embarrassment the media reports had caused Yudhoyono and has promised a "swift, full and courteous response" to the president's written concerns.

Websites of the Australia's central bank and police force were attacked on Thursday by a hacker claiming links to the international activist group Anonymous as an apparent response to the reports.

"There was some sort of attempt on our website, and we are investigating the matter," a spokesman for Australian Federal Police said. "Our website is back to normal and the attempt didn't affect our actual internal AFP systems."

The RBA confirmed its website was the subject of a "denial of service attack" that caused no outages but delays for some users.

The hacking attack is the second since news broke last month of Australian spying on Indonesia and other Asian nations as part of a U.S.-led spying operation.

Relations between Australia and Indonesia hit a nadir in 1999 when Australia sent troops into East Timor after Indonesia's military pulled out of the former colony.

Ties with Jakarta have improved significantly since the two countries were drawn together in response to the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali, which killed more than 200 people including 88 Australians.

But they have taken a turn for the worse since Abbott took office in September, because of the spying reports and tension over how to prevent asylum seekers sailing from Indonesia to Australia.

Indonesia's trade minister suggested the chill could hit economic ties, with total trade worth more than $11 billion last year. Indonesia is a major importer of Australian agricultural products while Australia is Indonesia's 10th biggest export market.

[Source: Reuters, Sydney, 21Nov13]

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Privacy and counterintelligence
small logoThis document has been published on 21Nov13 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.