18 May 2009

Australian quintet unsure about their court case and future in Papua

7:11 pm on 18 May 2009

Uncertainty still surrounds the future of five Australians who illegally entered Indonesian territory through an airport in Merauke, Papua, last September.

The five North Queenslanders, all aged over 50, are banned from leaving the province until an Indonesian Supreme Court verdict has been handed down.

This comes after Indonesian prosecutors lodged objections to a High Court decision to free the quintet in March.

Earlier, the pilot William Scott-Bloxam was judged on appeal in the Jayapura High Court to have been obeying air traffic control when he put his twin-engined light aircraft down at Merauke airport in September.

That court overturned a lower court's three-year sentence, and the two-year sentences given to each of his four passengers.

However, prosecutors believe this was an incorrect reading of the law.

The editor of the Torres Strait News, Mark Bousen, who has been in touch with group regularly by cellphone, says they continue to languish in Merauke with little indication of when their case will be heard let alone resolved.

"They could be home tomorrow, they could be home next year or they could be home in three years. No one knows. They don;t know what's going on. They're just sitting there, trying to remain calm and obviously they can't. They're terrified."

Mark Bousen says the so-called "Merauke five" are being treated well by locals and are in good health although they are emotionally distraught and fearful for their future.