JAKARTA: The House of Representatives has passed into law the national system of scienceinfo-icon and technologyinfo-icon Bill, which imposes criminal charges against foreign researchers found guilty of violating visa regulations.

The legislative body took the unanimous decision to pass the Bill into law during a plenary meeting, despite mounting criticism from researchers who argue that the law may curtail academic freedom and hinder scientific development in the country.

Lawmaker and National Mandate Party (PAN) politician Andi Yuliani Parisinfo-icon said the law stipulated criminal sanctions because it included two types of researchinfo-icon, namely high-risk and dangerous research."Researchers do not have to worry (as long as) they possess ethical clearance (from the Research, Technology and Higher Education Ministry)," Andi said.

According to the law, a copy of which was obtained by the Jakarta Post, any foreigner who conducts research without a valid permit could face a fine of Rp4bil (RM1.18mil) and be banned from applying for a permit for five years.

The law also states that anyone conducting high-risk or dangerous research must obtain a permit from the government or else they could be subject to a one-year jail term and a fine of Rp2bil (RM590,000).

The law also imposes criminal charges on foreign researchers who steal biodiversity samples with a prison term of two years and a fine of Rp2bil.

The Indonesian Sciences Academy (AIPI) said the law could threaten academic freedom and called it counterproductive to encouraging research collaboration. -- Jakarta Post / Asiainfo-icon News Network