Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, has today appealed to those holding New Zealand pilot, Phillip Mehrtens, in remote Papua, Indonesia, to release him as the first anniversary of his capture nears.
Mr Mehrtens was taken hostage a year ago on 7 February in Paro, Papua, while providing vital air links and supplies to remote communities.
“We strongly urge those holding Phillip to release him immediately and without harm. His continued detention serves the interests of no one,” Mr Peters said.
“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.”
Mr Peters said a wide range of New Zealand Government agencies have been working extensively with Indonesian authorities and others towards securing Phillip’s release over the past year.
The response, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has also been supporting his family, he said.
“Let me be absolutely clear. There can never be any justification for hostage taking.”
Mr Peters said he had spoken with the Mehrtens family recently, and assured them the Government was exploring all avenues to bring Phillip home.
“They have requested privacy and I’d ask that their wishes are respected.”