16 Jan 2009

Tough sentences to five Australians in Papua reflects sensitive relationship with Indonesia

6:10 pm on 16 January 2009

An Australian political scientist says the tough sentences metted out

to five Australians for illegally entering Indonesia's Papua province reflect the sensitivities of the relationship between the two countries.

This follows the sentencing of an Australian pilot and his four passengers to three and two years prison respectively for illegally entry to Indonesia by landing a small chartered plane in Papua province last September.

The Australians have said they had flown to Papua for sightseeing and assumed they could get visas on arrival.

Damien Kingsbury from Australia's Deakin University says the sentences are especially tough compared to the case of Lesley McCullough, a Scottish academic imprisoned in Aceh in 2002 after spending time with Free Aceh guerillas.

"Now she was arrested and charged with very serious visa violations and offences and ended up being convicted and sentenced to six months. And that was regarded as pretty serious at that time. So two and three years really by comparison really for what could be a failry innocent mistake is quite harsh and could reflect the sensitivity and the difficulty of the Australia/Indonesia relationship around West Papua."

Damien Kingsbury