New Zealand pilot kidnapped a year ago and held hostage in West Papua will be freed, West Papua National Liberation Army says

Separatist fighters who seized Phillip Mehrtens say he will be released to protect humanity and safeguard human rights, but did not say when. Rebels in Indonesia’s West Papua region have said they will release a New Zealand pilot who was taken hostage a year ago as a bargaining chip for their independence movement.

The chief of general staff of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB), Terianus Satto, said in a statement the pilot would be released in order to protect humanity and safeguard human rights. It was unclear when Mehrtens would be released.

The news came after New Zealand’s government appealed for his release. On Monday, Winston Peters, New Zealand deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, said Mehrtens’ continued detention served no one’s interests. “We strongly urge those holding Phillip to release him immediately and without harm,” Peters said.

Guerrilla fighters in the central highlands of restive Papua, who want the province declared independent from Indonesia, kidnapped Mehrtens after he landed a small commercial passenger plane at the remote Paro airport in the mountainous area of Nduga on 7 February 2023.

livus,
livus avatar

From the article:

Guerrilla fighters in the central highlands of restive Papua, who want the province declared independent from Indonesia, kidnapped Mehrtens after he landed a small commercial passenger plane at the remote Paro airport in the mountainous area of Nduga on 7 February 2023.

One year on from the kidnapping, very little is known about where Mehrtens is being held or what conditions he is living in. Updates from his captors have been scant, offering only that his welfare is “top priority” and he is healthy and well fed. Meanwhile, Mehrtens’ family has declined to speak.

“We know that just before Christmas Phillip was able to contact some friends and family to assure them that he is alive and well, however we are still concerned at the length of time he has been held,” Peters said...

The case has drawn renewed attention to a long-running and increasingly deadly conflict in resource-rich Papua that has unfolded since it was brought under Indonesian rule. During his captivity, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) – the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) – has circulated videos and photos of Mehrtens, along with demands for the region’s independence.

The area where Mehrtens is being held remains an extremely dangerous place for West Papuans. TPN-PB regularly launch attacks and engage in skirmishes with the Indonesian security forces and the Indonesian military has been accused of brutality, including torture and murder of civilians.

There is also a much larger, peaceful civil movement for independence in the region – which stems from Indonesia’s violent repression of West Papuans...

Last week, Sambom said Mehrtens had not been released because the Indonesian and New Zealand governments have not wanted to talk to the armed group.

“We have opened up but the Indonesian and New Zealand governments don’t want to talk to us, so we don’t know the reason.”

The conflict in Papua has escalated significantly since 2018, with pro-independence fighters mounting deadlier and more frequent attacks, largely because they have managed to procure more sophisticated weapons. It began after the region was controversially put under Indonesian control in a vote overseen by the United Nations in 1969.

robocall,

Sounds like it’s going to be a great movie one day

livus,
livus avatar

@robocall it's shaping up to be another documentary about a westerner dying in an Indonesian colony at this rate.

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