Crime & Justice

Kidnapped New Zealand pilot: Release will come with Papua independence

Jakarta, March 10 (EFE).- The New Zealand pilot kidnapped more than a month ago in remote Indonesia will be released once Papua has independence, he said in a new video message from his captors released on Friday.

Philip Mehrtens was abducted by fighters from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), an armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM), on Feb. 7 after landing a Susi Air plane in Papua province’s remote Nduga regency. Five local passengers were released.

“I have been instructed to read this statement,” Mehrtens begins one video. “No foreign pilots are permitted to work and fly in Papua until Papua is independent.”

“OPM requests the United Nations to mediate between Papua and Indonesia to work towards Papuan independence. OPM will release me when Papua is independent.”

Undated videos and photos, in which Mehrtens is seen looking relaxed, dressed in a camouflage hat, blue jacket and beige pants and surrounded by dozens of armed rebels in a forested area, were sent to media outlets, including EFE, by TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambon.

The New Zealander says in another video that he’s “been taken care of as well as can be expected given the situation,” and that he has been provided with warm clothing, food and water, as well as medicines to be able to tolerate “the long walks that we take daily.”

Mehrtens also asks that any salary he is owed be given to his family for food and bills.

He asks his family to “please try not to worry too much about me” and urges them to be “strong and patient, and I hope that we can all be together soon,” although he warns that “this could go on for a long time.”

After his kidnapping last month, the OPM started releasing various demands, including that New Zealand take the conflict to the UN Security Council; that the International Criminal Court initiate an investigation into abuses by Indonesia in the region, and that Indonesia recognize the independence of this territory.

Rich in natural resources, Papua, in the east of the western half of the island of New Guinea, has been the scene of a low-intensity armed conflict between the central Indonesian state and secessionist movements since the region came under the control of Jakarta in 1969. EFE


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