Tuesday, December 11, 2007

American Tourist Held Captive in Solomon Islands


Justin Taylan, 30, of Hyde Park, New York, awaits trial in anchored detention offshore the Solomon Islands, a tiny Pacific island nation near the east coast of Australia. He has spent 15 years discovering and preserving World War II plane wrecks and more recently has fought Third World corruption in the illegal trafficking of war relics. Held since Nov. 6, 2007 for illegal entry, he's pleaded not guilty. Taylan faces up to three years in prison.

11 Dec 2007 05:31 Africa/Lagos

American Tourist Held Captive in Solomon Islands

One American's Battle to Save World War II History in the South Pacific

SOLOMON ISLANDS, Dec. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- A young American, Justin Taylan, 30, of Hyde Park, New York, has been held captive since November 6, 2007 in the Solomon Islands, a tiny nation off Australia's east coast. Taylan is founder of a non-profit history website detailing World War II stories and Pacific theater airplane wrecks. Traveling by boat from Papua New Guinea, he hoped to explore relics from the Battle of Guadalcanal.


Also held in custody by Solomon authorities are Taylan's colleagues Yoji Sakaida, 41, of Chiba, Japan, World War II enthusiast and graphic designer, Rodney Pearce, 57, of Australia and the ship's captain, and Daisy Eliah, 25, of Papua New Guinea, the ship's cook.


On November 6, Taylan inadvertently stumbled upon a salvage operation underway at Ballale Island, part of the famous Battle of Guadalcanal. "There are more World War II plane wrecks there than anywhere else in the world," Taylan said. "We saw six Zero fighters, a Val dive bomber and a Betty bomber being illegally removed. That's why all this started."


The group drew the attention of the salvagers. The Royal Solomon Island Police Force confiscated their passports, photos, and videotapes placing them in detention without charges. They have since been charged with illegally entering the country and pleaded innocent since they crossed borders through a published port of entry and in accordance with Solomon Islands law. Trial is set for December 12 and the maximum sentence is three years in jail.


Taylan testified in September 2006 before Papua New Guinea Parliament National Parliament in the "Inquiry into the National Museum and Art Gallery and the Sale and Export of the Swamp Ghost Aircraft." He received an official commendation from the governing body that his "evidence as to the extent of the removal of these aircraft over the last decade and the complicity of the Museum to be of great assistance."


Grandson of World War II combat photographer Carl Thien, Taylan gained an early appreciation for Pacific War air battles. As a teenager, he accompanied his grandfather on a return trip to Papua New Guinea to photograph wrecks in their original locations.


More information, photos, and updates are available at http://taylandefensefund.org/.


PacificWrecks.com


Taylan searches out wrecks, safeguards human remains, and returns dog tags to surprised veterans. He is founder of PacificWrecks.com, a free, non-profit history website detailing World War II stories and Pacific theater airplane wrecks. He produces and distributes his own historical documentaries and has appeared on The History Channel and PBS.


Taylan was featured in the October 2007 issue of Smithsonian Magazine in the article "Swamp Ghosts: In Papua New Guinea, a journalist investigates the controversy over a World War II bomber."


He wrote his first book about the war at age 16 and has since been published in many historical and flight publications and spoken on this topic around the world.


Photo: NewsCom: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20071210/LAM133
PRN Photo Desk, photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: Justin Taylan

CONTACT: Steve Kleiman of KLEIMAN ASSOCIATES, +1-323-230-5299, fax
+1-323-210-7273, stevek@taylandefensefund.org, for Justin Taylan


Web site: http://www.taylandefensefund.org/
http://www.pacificwrecks.com/

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