19 May 2009

Canberra castigated over its handling of Merauke Five predicament

2:31 pm on 19 May 2009

A supporter of the five North Queenslanders banned from leaving Indonesia's Papua province until a Court verdict has been handed down says the Australian government has been gutless.

In March, Indonesian prosecutors lodged objections to a High Court decision to free the so-called Merauke Five who illegally flew their plane to Merauke last September.

Earlier this year, the High Court overturned a lower court's three-year sentence against pilot William Scott-Bloxam and the two-year sentences given to his four passengers.

However, prosecutors claim this was an incorrect reading of the law and they are still pursuing the case.

The editor of the Torres Strait News, Mark Bousen, says the group has no idea when their case will be heard or resolved and have had little help from Canberra.

"I think the Australian government's been particularly gutless on the whole situation. they made a mistake, they admitted their stupidity in arriving without visas. That they've now been held since the 12th of September is absolutley absurd and just grossly offensive to any sense of common decency."

Mark Bousen