News Articles

Execution ‘stayed indefinitely’ for 3 Indonesian Catholics

WASHINGTON (BP)–The execution of three ethnic Indonesian Christians has been “stayed indefinitely,” a spokesperson for International Christian Concern told Baptist Press Aug. 23.

The international civil rights organization nevertheless is continuing to urge Christians to contact the Indonesian embassies in Washington, Ottawa and London to press for “a wide-ranging investigation” into Christian-Muslim violence on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island in 2000 -– “so that everyone who is guilty can be charged or amnestied.”

In other developments, Indonesia’s Supreme Court has rejected a second appeal for a pardon of the three men, AsiaNews reported Aug. 23. (AsiaNews is a Catholic news service based in Rome.)

AsiaNews reported that a defense attorney for the men said he will challenge the court’s ruling by contending that it only has authority to make a recommendation to the country’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, regarding the appeal for a pardon.

The three men, Fabianus Tibo, Marianus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva, all Catholics, were convicted in 2001 for inciting Christian-Muslim violence that led to the killing of some 1,000 people in the Poso port region of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.

AsiaNews also reported that the chief prosecutor for the region “lost his job” on Aug. 20, but the news service was unable to report further details.

The prosecutor is the one responsible for scheduling the execution under Indonesian law, AsiaNews reported.

The execution of the three men by firing squad had been scheduled Aug. 12 but was delayed at the last moment. Protests of the execution were waged not only by International Christian Concern but also by the Vatican and the European Union and townspeople in the Poso region, including an estimated 10,000 people on Aug. 18.

The nation’s police chief, Gen. Sutanto, as he is known, had said the executions would be carried out some time after Aug. 20, the Associated Press reported Aug. 11.

Heightening international attention over the fate of three Catholic men has been similar uncertainty over the scheduled execution of three Muslim militants for their convictions in the 2002 bombings that killed 202 people in nation’s Bali resort area.

The militants’ Aug. 22 execution was delayed after they decided to move forward with a final appeal, according to news reports. In all, 33 people were convicted for the plot.

Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, had noted in an Aug. 11 news release that the Indonesian government “views the executions of these Christians as a way to balance justice –- very important in Indonesian society.”

“Overall concerns of justice or whether these men are the fall guys for thousands of other guilty individuals is secondary,” King stated.

The Poso conflict included attacks initiated by both Muslims and Christians. The turmoil also stirred an influx of Muslim fighters from the paramilitary Laskar Jihad movement, which TIME magazine reported as having “launched a campaign against Christian villages in Sulawesi … to sweep all Christians out of the area.”

King noted in the Aug. 11 news release: “One of the most amazing aspects of this case is that in attacks from 1998 to 2003, there were approximately 10,000 Christians murdered, 1,000 churches burned down and 80,000 homes burned down. In that orgy of violence directed against Christians, the only individuals the government chose to convict were these three [Christian] men. This is quite alarming especially considering all the indications that local and regional government officials aided and abetted these attacks against Christians.”

In an Aug. 9 news release, International Christian Concern had stated, “While these men [Tibo, Riwu and da Silva] have admitted their involvement in the conflict, they were the only ones charged in a conflict in which massive numbers of Muslims participated…. This is a glaring injustice and hints of massive coverup by the Indonesian government.”

Contact information for embassies in the United States, Canada and England follows:
Indonesian Embassy US
Phone: 202-775-5200; fax: 202-775-5365
http://www.embassyofindonesia.org/ click “Contact Us.”
2020 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, USA
Indonesian Embassy Canada
Phone: 613-724-1100; fax: 613-724-1105
55 Parkdale Ave., Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 1E5, Canada
Indonesian Embassy UK
Phone: (020) 7499 7661; fax: (020) 7491 4993
38 Grosvenor Square, London W1K 2HW