6 Mar 2009

Papua prison sentence overturned for group of five Australians

4:09 pm on 6 March 2009

An Indonesian court has overturned the convictions of five Australians sentenced to prison for illegally entering Papua province in a small plane last year.

62-year old Torres Strait pilot William Scott-Bloxam, and four passengers including his wife, all aged between 50 and 60, are expected to be deported within days following successful appeals in the High Court of Jayapura.

In January, the Merauke District Court jailed Mr Scott-Bloxam for three years and his passengers two years each for flying the chartered plane into Indonesian airspace without permission last September.

The group, from Cape York on Australia's northern tip, were initially suspected of being foreign spies.

However the Australians claimed their trip was a sightseeing flight and that they mistakenly believed they could get visas on arrival in Papua.

A spokesman for the group, Mohammad Rifan from the Austrindo Law Office, said the group are very grateful for the support from Australia's government.

He expects them to fly out from Merauke in their plane next week.