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Freed French journalists return to Paris from Indonesia

media The two French journalists Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois with an interpreter during their trial in Jayapura (Indonesia) in October 2014. Indrayadi/AFP

Two French journalists who were handed a two-and-a-half month jail term in Indonesia for illegally reporting in the country's Papua province arrived Wednesday morning at an airport near Paris.

Thomas Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat, 29, landed at around 7.00am at the Paris's Charles-de-Gaulle airport and went home after they spoke to the press.

They seemed relieved above all else.

“It’s an adventure that did not end too badly,” said Thomas Dandois while Valentine Bourrat said she “could not wait to walk again in the streets of Paris” and to be surrounded by her friends and family.

On Friday the journalists were sentenced to two and a half months in jail by a court in Indonesia's Papua province but had already served that time in custody after being arrested on 6 August while making a documentary for Franco-German television channel Arte about the Papuan separatist movement.

At the trial the pair was charged with breaking immigration laws since they were reporting with tourist, not journalist, visas – a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.

Indonesia is deeply sensitive about journalists covering Papua, where a low-level insurgency against the central government has simmered for decades, and rarely grants visas for foreigners to report independently in the region.

According to the Independent Alliance of Indonesian Journalists, it is the first time foreign journalists have been sentenced in Papua for breaking immigration law.

Foreign journalists detained in the past for illegally reporting in Papua were swiftly deported.

Several NGOs deplored the sentences, while their lawyer said “it opened the door for the criminalisation of journalistic activities”.

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