19 Jan 2009

Indonesian military behind tough sentences to five Australians in Papua, says academic

12:04 pm on 19 January 2009

An Australian political scientist says the Indonesian military is likely to have been the driving force behind tough prison sentences for five Australians convicted of illegally entering Papua province.

This follows the sentencing of an Australian pilot and his four passengers to three and two years prison respectively for illegally entry by landing a small chartered plane in Papua province last September.

The Australians, who earlier said they had flown to Papua for sightseeing and assumed they could get visas on arrival, plan to appeal the sentences.

But Damien Kingsbury from Australia's Deakin University says an appeal stands little chance of success in the court system of Papua where the military retains its greater control than elsewhere in the republic.

"The Indonesian military appears to be behind the extent of the sentence and the court's take on this offence. I think they'll be trying to ensure that the lesson, if you like, that's being spelled out here is well and truly learnt. So they'll try and keep the sentence at this current level if not increased."