An Australian pilot wrongfully imprisoned on child sex tourism charges says his two children have been abducted with the aid of Papua New Guinea’s child services department, Lukautim Pikinini.
Fred Martens, 62, says his two sons, aged six and eight, were abducted by his former partner five years ago, shortly after he was sentenced in 2006 to three years’ jail by the Cairns Supreme Court of raping a 14-year-old girl in PNG.
He was released in 2009, having spent nearly 1000 days in custody, after supporters obtained PNG flight records proving he couldn’t have been with the girl around the time of the alleged offence.
Martens has since been locked in an 18-month battle with the department to see his two sons, and last week formally requested the director of Lukautim Pikinini (child welfare), Isabel Salatiel, intervene on his behalf.
He alleges his former partner, Mittie Katu, took his eight- and six-year-old sons to Kella Village in Morobe province in the nation’s east, despite having no biological relationship with the boys.
“The biological and rightful family members including myself… have been denied rightful access to our children by Ms Mittie Katu and the residents of Kella Village, where they are being kept against their will in this `community imprisonment’,” he said in a letter to Ms Salatiel.
“This deprivation of liberty constitutes a criminal act.”
In December last year Martens met his five-year-old son, Lee, for the first time in Cairns airport.
The latest hold-up in seeing his other children came after a Lukautim case officer, who he says is an old friend of Ms Katu, made a snap decision to insist the boys’ biological mother be present at a case meeting in Port Moresby.
That woman, who is now in another relationship, had already attended numerous welfare meetings in Lae in 2010 and in February 2011 travelled to Kella village to see the children.
There she, along with the boys’ grandparents, were refused landing on the village beach by Ms Katu’s family when they travelled there by dinghy.
“I want to reunite my family and I can’t because of corruption and the Wantok (one-talk) system,” Martens said.
Attempts to contact Lukautim Pikinini by AAP on Friday were unsuccessful.
Martens is also suing the Australian government for $45 million over his imprisonment ordeal.
At the time of his arrest, Australian authorities claimed the flight records eventually used to clear his name did not exist.
He says a number of businesses, properties and equipment in PNG were lost because of his imprisonment in Australia.
They include Pioneer Health Services, the country’s flying doctor service, which was founded by Martens, as well as engineering and construction firms and a security firm.