13 Mar 2009

"Merauke five" stuck at Papua airport

5:48 pm on 13 March 2009

The editor of the Torres Strait News, Mark Bousen, says five Australians freed from jail but facing an uncertain future in Indonesia's Papua are afraid to leave Mopah airport in Merauke.

Pilot William Scott-Bloxam, his wife Vera and three of their friends were preparing to return home this week after winning an appeal against convictions for illegally entering Indonesia in a light plane last September.

But the five are now stuck in Merauke while district prosecutors ascertain whether they can appeal against the decision to overturn the convictions.

Mark Bousen, who has been in touch with group regularly by cellphone, says the move by the prosecutor to appeal the High Court ruling is unheard of:

"But as part of that appeal process, he's impounded the plane. Now the order from the High Court judge was that they could leave Indonesia immediately on the plane on which they arrived. By impounding the plane, they can't adhere to the judge's ruling. They then asked about getting exemptions or visas to get on other planes, and there is a real reluctance within the Merauke judiciary to comply with that."

Mark Bousen says the group are afraid to leave the airport unless they are arrested again for illegal entry.