22 Jan 2009

Friend of five Australians jailed in Papua says they made honest mistake

6:44 pm on 22 January 2009

An associate of five Australians who have been imprisoned in Indonesia's Papua province for illegal entry says the group is being severely punished for making an innocent mistake.

Queensland pilot, William Scott-Bloxam, and four passengers including his wife 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, all aged above 50 and from the Torres Strait/Cape York area, had flown to Papua for sightseeing, believing they could get a visa on arrival.

The editor of Torres News, Mark Bousen, has been in touch with the Scott-Bloxams and says they're terrified at their prospects in local prison conditions.

"I think the worst thing that they can be accused of is just bloody gross stupidity. I think Scott was given some bad advice by that mob and he accepted what he was told. This bloke said you can do this and I think he (Scott-Bloxam) said oh ok, that'll save us stuffing around and off they went. I don't think it was a long-term planned project, I think they just decided, let's fly over and see what it's like. They were looking to broaden tourism opportunities given that Merauke is about an hour in a single-engine plane from Horn Island."

Mark Bousen