News Articles

Religious freedom group urges appeals for
3 Indonesians facing execution Saturday

WASHINGTON (BP)–Efforts to halt the execution of three ethnic Christians in Indonesia have been joined by a leading Christian human rights group, International Christian Concern.

The three men, slated to face a firing squad early Saturday morning, Aug. 12, 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.

International Christian Concern, in an Aug. 9 news release, stated, “While these men [Fabianus Tibo, Marianus Riwu and Dominggus 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,” ICC charged.

Reuters news service reported Aug. 10, “Thousands of Christians held a rally on Thursday … in the town of Tentena in Poso to oppose the execution, police said.” The Associated Press reported that protests also took place in the men’s hometowns.

ICC, based in Washington, D.C., stated that it has conducted its own investigation of the conflict in Poso, which dates back to 1998. “Entire Christian villages were attacked with government munitions and burned down using Indonesian government fuel trucks. Christian adults and children were beheaded.

“The Muslim community initiated the attacks and there was every indication that local Muslim government leaders were involved,” ICC stated. “Why were no Muslims ever charged in any of the attacks?”

The ICC news release, however, did not recap the Christian-Muslim violence in Poso in recent years. According to other reports, the strife has included Christian-initiated attacks against Muslims but also the 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.”

ICC’s Aug. 9 news release also stated, “On the 19th of June, 2000, more than 200 Christian women, children and men were massacred in one church alone (Halmahera Evangelical Church in Duma), and not one person was ever arrested, charged or imprisoned, let alone executed for this crime.”

ICC charged that, from 1998 to 2003 across Indonesia, “approximately 10,000 Christians were murdered and 1,000 churches burned down. … Yet the government could never find any Muslims to charge?”

ICC President Jeff King stated in the news release, “There are so many Muslims in the Poso area with blood on their hands that the Governor of Central Sulawesi, where Poso is located, recently conveyed to the community that in order to attain peace it was necessary to implement a ‘General Amnesty’ for those implicated in the Poso case. Religious and cultural leaders of the Poso community have also repeatedly held meetings in order to achieve a ‘General Amnesty.’ Strangely, the need for amnesty is only for those who have not been charged.”

Among the incidents in Poso listed in the State Department’s 2005 human rights report on Indonesia:

— “On October 29, three teenage Christian schoolgirls were beheaded near Poso…. Days later, two teenage girls, one Muslim and one Christian, were shot and killed at a bus stop in Poso.”

— “On May 28, a bomb exploded in a major market in the Christian majority town of Tentena … killing at least 21 persons and injuring 40 others.”

Among Muslim children in Poso, Osama bin Laden T-shirts are “omnipresent,” TIME magazine reported.

A BBC reporter who visited Poso last December recounted, “The ruins of burned out buildings -– churches, mosques and houses -– bear silent testimony to the ferocity of the battles fought here.” A Christian attack against an Islamic boarding school left at least 100 Muslims dead, the reporter stated.

The AP reported that the three men have denied the charges warranting the death penalty, while Reuters recounted that “appeals from the three have been rejected by courts at all levels, twice at the Supreme Court.” Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also rejected a petition in their behalf last year, the news services reported.

ICC urged that “all concerned individuals contact their Indonesian embassy to urge the Indonesian government to intervene” in behalf of the men, Tibo, Riwu and da Silva.

ICC said Indonesian officials should be urged to:

— “Delay the execution.

— “Reopen a wide-ranging investigation into the Poso attacks to so that everyone who is guilty can be charged or amnestied.”

Contact information for embassies in the United States, Canada and England follow:
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