A NEW video of the hostage pilot has emerged a year after he was captured by gun-wielding jungle rebels.
Philip Mehrtens, 38, was landing a single-engine plane when it was seized by rebels and set on fire last February.
In the video, the New Zealand-born pilot looked scruffy and gaunt, having spent a year in captivity in Papua, Indonesia.
But he appeared smiling as he sat in an undisclosed location against a jungle backdrop.
In a message to his wife, Maria, and a six-year-old son, he said: “I’m OK. They are treating me well.
“I’m trying to stay positive and I hope that you are healthy and doing OK and getting support.”
The video was recorded in December 22, 2023 but was only released last week.
Mehrtens added that “komandan” – likely referring to Egianus Kogoya, a commander in the West Papua National Liberation(TPN-PB) – has promised to organise a phone call with the pilot’s family in the coming days.
“I love you both lots and miss you both lots and hope to be able to talk with you soon,” he continued.
In a second video released last week, the pilot asked the New Zealand government for supplies to mitigate his captivity.
He said: “Can you please help to get one or two ventolin inhalers just so that I have them available in case I get some asthma and, if possible, can I please get an e-book reader like a Kindle with as many English books as possible.
“That would be very much appreciated.”
Two months ago, the rebels have threatened to kill Mehrtens if their demands were not met.
The separatists are reportedly members of the West Papua National Liberation Army, which is fighting for independence from Indonesia.
The dispute between Indonesia and Papua people has dated back to the late 1960s.
Papua came under Indonesian control in 1969 following a controversial UN-sponsored referendum.
The rebels have demanded New Zealand cut links with Jakarta, which it accuses of carrying out genocide against the Papuan population.
Mehrtens lived in an expat community on the Indonesian island of Bali with his wife and their young son.
He was a pilot for Indonesian aviation company Susi Air when he was scheduled to pick up 15 construction workers who had been building a health centre in Paro.
But the plane was set fire to by the separatists while the pilot was taken hostage.
The shocking footage following his capture showed him surrounded by armed rebels with high-powered rifles and bows.
In the video, he said: “The military have taken me captive in their fight for independence.”
Five Papau passengers who were on the plane were released because they are Indigenous, rebel spokesman Sebby Sambom said at the time.
After Mehrtens’ kidnapping, the rebels said they would execute the pilot unless Indonesia recognised and freed Papua from “Indonesian colonialism”.
Sambom told The Telegraph the group was unwilling to speak to the “enemy” in Jakarta, but would negotiate the pilot’s release with Australia and New Zealand.
Leader Sebby Sambom reassured that the captive Kiwi was well taken care of.