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Date Posted: 04:02:00 03/23/06 Thu
Author: Vikki John
Subject: Aussie, Briton detained in PNG, 23 March 2006

The Australian, 23 March 2006

World Breaking News

This story is from our news.com.au network

Source: AAP

Aussie, Briton detained in PNG
By Lloyd Jones in Port Moresby
March 23, 2006

AN Australian and a Briton who spent about 18 months holed up in a jungle hideout with now dead Bougainville secessionist leader Francis Ona have been detained by police in Port Moresby after trying to board a flight to the Philippines.

Australian Jeffrey Richards and Briton James Nessbit were arrested in the Bougainville town of Buka last week and flown to the Papua New Guinea capital.

On Monday they were fined 2500 kina ($1195) each after pleading guilty to overstaying their visas.

The pair had evaded police for 18 months after taking an unauthorised flight into Bougainville in September 2004 with two Australian pilots who were later charged and heavily fined.

After their court appearance, Richards and Nessbit were released but were taken into police custody again yesterday as they tried to fly to Manila.

Deputy Police Commissioner Gari Baki told AAP today police wanted to interview the men further about their activities in Bougainville.

Ona, a self-crowned "king", had dubbed Richards "Prince Jeffrey" and Nessbit "Lord James", when they lived with Ona in his mountain retreat at Panguna within a rebel-held no-go zone.

They stayed on after Ona's death following a short illness last July.

It was unclear exactly what they were doing for Ona but they appeared to have encouraged him in his royal aspirations and in his campaign to achieve independence for Bougainville.

Ona's opposition to the giant Australian-run Panguna gold and copper mine sparked a decade-long secessionist war during the 1990s that claimed the lives of up to 20,000 people.

PNG police hope Richards and Nessbit can provide information on five former Fijian soldiers training a security force in Bougainville's no-go zone for notorious conman Noah Musingku, a former Ona associate.

Musingku's private army has sparked regional concerns about renewed conflict and even an armed uprising against the new autonomous government on the island where a successful peace process has been forged.

PNG newspaper The National reported this week that Richards told PNG police the pro-independence Meekamui Movement in the no-go zone was heavily armed with high-powered assault rifles, machine guns, grenades and 40mm cannon.

Musingku has declared himself a Meekamui king but the movement is split with other leaders distancing themselves from Musingku's activities.


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