Jakarta: Friends and patients of two Victorian chiropractors in police custody in Jakarta have raised concerns over their arrest, saying they were respected professionals who had worked for years in Indonesia.
Thomas and Anthony Dawson, who ran six Chiropractic Indonesia clinics in Jakarta and Bali, were arrested on suspicion of treating patients when their work permits did not allow this. Police say they could face up to five years' jail.
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Australian brothers arrested in Indonesia
Indonesia correspondent Jewel Topsfield explains the situation of the two Australian chiropractic brothers arrested in Indonesia.
One of Anthony Dawson's closest friends, Mark Barlow, said Dr Dawson had run a successful clinic in Geelong before moving to Indonesia more than a decade ago.
Dr Thomas Dawson ran the the Wellbeing Chiropractic clinic in Hawthorn until about three years ago.
Both men are registered with the Chiropractic Board of Australia.
Mr Barlow said Anthony Dawson, the director of the clinics, had been scrupulous about ensuring he complied with Indonesian law and regulations, even hiring an inhouse lawyer and immigration expert.
"Everything was done to the nth degree to make sure everyone had the correct working permits and everything was done by the law," Mr Barlow said.
The clinics are mostly in high-end shopping malls and had some high-profile patients.
"Personally I've never known anyone more passionate about his profession and staff," Mr Barlow said.
"The company was structured correctly … there was no problem until this witch hunt."
Indonesian authorities have cracked down on chiropractic clinics following the death of Jakarta woman Allya Siska Nadya after she was treated for neck pain at an unrelated clinic last year.
The American practitioner who treated her, Randall Cafferty, has reportedly fled the country.
It was subsequently revealed that in 2013 Mr Cafferty had been placed on three years' probation by the California board of chiropractic examiners for "unprofessional conduct" and "conviction of a crime".
Jakarta police detective chief Krishna Murti said a taskforce was set up with Jakarta police and Jakarta manpower, health and immigration officers after Ms Allya's death.
Police have reportedly closed down 20 clinics across the city, including the Chiropractic Indonesia clinics.
There is no suggestion any patients were harmed at Chiropractic Indonesia clinics.
Well-known tropical garden designer Made Wijaya, an Australian who has lived in Bali for decades, said the Dawson brothers were "healing wizards".
"From my perspective, poor Tony and his brother have been caught up in a witch hunt generated by the tragic accident with the poor girl," he said.
"Why would Tony open clinics at high profile places such as Pacific Plaza if he had doubts about his legality? It would be reckless. It seems unfair what is happening to our boys."
Democratic governance consultant Paul Rowland said the arrests were a personal tragedy for the Dawsons. "The closure of the clinics has left thousands of clients to live with back pain," said Mr Rowland, who was a patient.
"It also sends a message that Indonesia is a risky place to do business and to innovate. It is never a good sign when administrative issues are criminalised. Prospective foreign investors could be forgiven for being scared away."
Head of the law enforcement unit of the South Jakarta Immigration office Toto Suryanto said it appeared as though there was a problem with the work permit of Thomas Dawson.
"In the work permit it says he was a consultant. In reality he is also helping with giving services to the patient," Mr Toto said.
Foreign legal consultant Peter Fanning said chiropractic practice was categorised as traditional health in Indonesia: "Traditional health is an activity that is limited to 100 per cent Indonesian ownership."
He said foreigners could work as advisers in chiropractic clinics in Indonesia but not practise.
Senior Commissioner Krishna said the men could be detained for up to 20 days at a Jakarta police station – with the option of an extension – before being handed over to the Jakarta prosecutor's office.
with Rania Spooner