20 Jun 2009

Supporters of five Australians in Papua fear hurdles will delay return home

10:23 am on 20 June 2009

The five North Queenslanders detained in Papua for the past nine months are waiting on some final paperwork clearance before they can return home.

The so-called "Merauke Five" were arrested last September for flying their small aircraft into Papua without visas or flight clearance.

The group's lawyer has said that the Australians should receive final permission to leave Merauke by the weekend but he has expressed concern that prosecutors may yet raise further hurdles.

A supporter of the group who has been in regular contact with them, the editor of Torres Strait News, Mark Bousen, says another obstacle to their return appeared to emerge yesterday.

"There was a belief that the Indonesian government might not sign off on the Supreme Court decision, that they might not allow them to leave but I think that was more a misunderstanding. That seems to have been cleared. The pilot, (William) Scott-Bloxham, has taken the plane up for a test run for about fifteen minutes yesterday and that was fine. The plane's ready to go. They're ready to go. They're just nervous about something going wrong."

Mark Bousen says the Merauke Five could be home by Monday.