21 Jan 2009

Christian air service denies claims over Australians imprisoned in Papua

8:27 pm on 21 January 2009

The Christian aviation network, Mission Aviation Fellowship, or MAF, has denied claims it misled a group of Australians who have been imprisoned for illegal entry to Indonesia's Papua region.

A Queensland pilot and his four passengers were last week sentenced to three and two years prison respectively for entering Papua without visa documentation when they landed their chartered plane last September.

The Merauke court heard the five had flown to Papua for sightseeing on the advice from MAF which carries out humanitarian work in remote parts of the region.

Some of the Australians' supporters have claimed MAF's local agent misled the Australians into believing they could get a visa on arrival

Mark Fox of MAF New Zealand says the pilot merely made an enquiry with MAF about what was required in order to fly into that area, and about tourist information.

"There was no mis-leading because there was no official enquiries. It was about gathering some information in an unofficial capacity so... the Australian pilot obviously is an international, experienced pilot and understands a lot of those issues himself."

Mark Fox of MAF