Carmel Budiardjo is reluctant to talk about her own suffering during the three years she spent incarcerated in an Indonesian gulag. But she campaigns tirelessly for the rights of others still living dangerously in the troubled archipelago. Now 73, almost all her adult life has been devoted to the people of a country in which she was brutally treated and jailed before being thrown out and told she could never return. Born in Britain, she moved to Jakarta in 1952 after marrying a political science student from Indonesia she met while working for the International Student Movement in Prague. She was quickly caught up in the excitement of a newly independent nation. 'It was a very extraordinary time. The Dutch had just left and I had a sense I was in a place where things were happening. I learnt the language quite quickly and got a job as a translator. I was really in the thick of things, and got involved in writing economic analysis for some local papers - just basically writing a lay person's guide to the economy.' Her husband Bud had a good job in the civil service and rose to a senior post in the Shipping Ministry. They both enjoyed discussing new ideas with friends in parliament and other political contacts, and settled into a comfortable home in the capital. Two children were born and Ms Budiardjo applied for Indonesian nationality after taking a job as an economic analyst with the Foreign Ministry. 'We were all basically thinking [former president] Sukarno was quite a guy. There was a sense that we were trying to build a national coalition. There was no sense that we were trying to overthrow the government. I just wanted to defend the national interest against foreign control,' she remembers. But then in 1965, following an attempted coup which was crushed by General Suharto - who was later to become president - life as they had known it began to crumble. Carmel had been a member of a left-leaning academic group while her husband had been a member of the Communist Party, and suddenly they both lost their jobs. 'I was just told not to turn up for work anymore. It was a kind of dishonourable dismissal. My husband was arrested and then released and then re-arrested. Soldiers just came to the house in a jeep and took him away. They didn't tell me where they were taking him. It took me days to find out where he was so I could take him some food.' He was held in jail for more than 18 months before being released without trial. Once he was free the family tried to rebuild their lives, but as the political situation began to deteriorate further in September 1968 they made plans to move to Britain. But before they could leave soldiers returned once again to their home. 'I remember it quite vividly. The troops came to the house in the early evening. They knocked on the door and a man walked in wearing civilian clothes and told me I had to come with him. 'I started asking all sorts of questions, which were really quite pointless because he would not answer. Then another man came into my living room with a rifle and just sat down with the gun resting between his legs. It was all very casual.' Ms Budiardjo was marched outside and put in a jeep. Her husband asked if he could go with her so he would know which jail she was being taken to and be able to visit the next day. 'His intention was just to see where I was going, but that turned out to be a big mistake. You see, when we got to the detention centre they simply registered both of us. They came out to arrest one person and came back with two,' Ms Budiardjo said. Bud was to remain in jail for 10 years, while she won her release after three. Neither of them was ever charged but were simply held because of their connections with the Communist Party. Over the years Ms Budiardjo was to be kept in a number of different detention centres. But the first few weeks she remembers as the worst. 'It was awful because it was an interrogation place and a torture place. I was not tortured, though women were tortured extensively, but they did not lay a finger on me. I think they were worried what they should do with this Englishwoman they had arrested.' She was, however, interrogated repeatedly about her articles published some years before in the local press. 'The fellow doing the interrogation knew I had written a lot of articles. He tried to claim my articles were Marxist, but they were not at all. One day I persuaded them to take me home to collect the articles, which I had saved. I don't suppose they ever bothered to read them.' After several weeks she was moved to the Likdam detention centre in central Jakarta, where several hundred people were crowded into an old Dutch settler's house which was so cramped inmates had to sleep in shifts. Food was scarce and the political prisoners were given only half a bowl of rice a day, with bean curd or soya cake occasionally seasoned with chilis. Ms Budiardjo and her husband were able to supplement their diet with food bought by their daughter Tari, 17, and 11-year-old son Anto. The children had little money to live on and set up a small food stall outside their home selling cakes and yogurt to help support themselves. Eventually friends took the children to England where they were cared for by Ms Budiardjo's family, who began lobbying for her release from there. The political prisoners were often treated brutally by military guards who tried to get them to admit to membership of different communist cells and to implicate others. Inmates would hear the screams of others being interrogated by soldiers who used electric shocks to try and force confessions. 'This went on for three years. I think I was a bit of a problem for my jailers. They did not seem to know what to do with me, partly because I was a foreigner. I was thinking, 'How can I get out of here?' I wasn't achieving anything sitting in prison.' She had relinquished her British nationality when she took the job with the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, but lawyers now found that this had been invalid and the authorities in Britain eventually took up her case through informal contacts with the authorities in Jakarta. 'I'm really not sure how far the British would have pushed on my behalf, but eventually in November 1971 it was agreed I would be released. There was this whole palaver that I had to sign a whole load of things saying I would not blame the Indonesian government for my detention, and then I was collected by a British diplomat who delivered me to the airport.' Her husband, with no foreign government to lobby on his behalf, was not released from detention until 1978, after which he went to live in England. Since her own release, Ms Budiardjo has been fighting to improve human rights in Indonesia. She campaigns incessantly on behalf of the people of East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya. Three years ago her work was recognised when she was awarded an international human rights prize, the Right Livelihood Award. Despite her years in jail and the long separation from her family, she has few regrets about her own life, instead focusing on how things are changing in Indonesia. She keeps in contact with politicians and human rights workers around the world who rely on her network for information. But as the protests spread across the archipelago and more people raise their voices to oppose the current government, Ms Budiardjo is convinced that the time for change has arrived. 'Things just can't go on the way they are,' she said.