19 Sep 2008

Five Australians who entered Papua illegally not a threat, says Defence Minister

11:09 am on 19 September 2008

Indonesia's Defence Minister has conceded that five Australians who entered his country illegally by landing their aircraft in Papua without proper visas are not a threat.

The two women and three men flew from Australia in a light aircraft and landed illegally at Mopah airport in the Merauke district.

The newspaper, The Age, reports that the pilot, William Scott-Bloxam, was fined over 3000 US dollars and his plane is in the hands of the Indonesian air force.

Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono met his Australian counterpart Joel Fitzgibbon yesterday, agreeing the five were not spies.

But Mr Scott-Bloxam, his co-pilot and wife Vera, and friends Hubert Hofer, Keith Mortimer and Karen Burke remain detained in an immigration detention centre in Papua while authorities assess their case.

The Australians claim they were on a private sightseeing trip to the restive eastern province.

However they face deportation, despite efforts from Australian embassy officials to arrange documentation.