Two charged in PNG for Indonesian hostage affair

Two members of the Free West Papua OPM movement have reportedly appeared in the Vanimo district court in Papua New Guinea in relation to the alleged hostage-taking incident near the border with Indonesia this month.

This follows reports from Indonesia that two Indonesian logging workers who had been held hostage in Skoutio village of PNG's West Sepik province for around a week were rescued late last week by PNG Defence Force soldiers.

The pair were reportedly kidnapped earlier this month by an armed group while cutting wood in Indonesia's Keerom regency, a three-hour walk from Skoutio.

The kidnappers had also shot a person who was later treated at hospital in Jayapura.

Two men from Indonesia's Papua province, aged 60 and 40, have already been charged in the PNG court with illegally entering and residing in PNG without valid permits.

The magistrate remanded them in police custody until October when the case would be recalled.

Meanwhile, the West Papuan independence activist Benny Wenda says the Free West Papua Campaign is not in any way affiliated with anyone advocating kidnapping or any violence in Papua.

Mr Wenda claimed there was suspicion that the entire "hostage case" was manipulated and directed by elements of the Indonesian government in order to justify the troop build-up in the border region.

The UK-based activist says West Papuans are often unfairly blamed for unrest.