By BosNewsLife Correspondents Stefan J. Bos and Eric Leijenaar
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife) -- There was uncertainty Saturday, August 26, about the fate of three Catholics sentenced to death for their alleged role in massacring Muslims after reports that they received an "indefinite" stay of execution from Indonesian authorities.
Christian rights investigators and Catholic news agency AsiaNews said they learned that Fabianus Tibo, 60, Domingus 'Domi' da Silva, 39, Marinus Riwu, 48, received the "indefinite" stay of execution last Sunday, August 20, when the prosecutor responsible for setting a new date was suspended.
Germany-based evangelical news agency IDEA concluded the move meant the sentence was "commuted into life imprisonment," but lawyers cautioned the three could still face "imminent execution."
They added they are seeking a presidential pardon for the accused, but claimed the Supreme Court refused to forward the request to the Indonesian President.
In published remarks, Lawyer Rory Rening said his legal team believes “the Supreme Court has certainly exceeded its authority and we will prepare legal moves against this." It was not immediately clear whether the lawyers could approach the president without the Supreme Court’s consent. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has already received requests for clemency from Pope Benedict XVI and from others in Indonesia, including some Muslim leaders.
But he is reportedly under pressure from radical Islamic groups to speed up the executions in what is the world’s largest Muslim nation. The three were originally scheduled to be put to death on August 12 but received a last-minute stay as local authorities said they wanted to prepare for Indonesia’s Independence Day on August 17.
Tibo and the others were convicted at a trial -- widely perceived as unfair -- of killing Muslims during a sectarian conflict in 2000 in the Pose region. The men have always denied the charges and even Muslim witnesses rushed to their defense.
Rights groups say the court refused to seriously consider testimonies of at least 13 different witnesses that they claim world have exonerated them. Irwanto Hasan, then part of the Poso Police Intelligence Division, testified that the three Christians were providing humanitarian aid when they were arrested.
They allegedly entered the conflict zone to evacuate children from a church-run school in the village of Moengko. On the morning of May 23, a Muslim mob reportedly entered Moengko and set fire to the church-run school.
The men and the students apparently escaped out the back door while the building was burned to the ground. They were later detained on charges of involvement in attacks against Muslims. The case has underscored growing tensions between Muslims and minority Christians in Indonesia, several rights groups say.
Campaigners have been asking supporters to express their concern to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (fax: +62 21 345 2685) the Indonesian Embassy in London (phone: +44 207499 7661, fax: 020 7491 4993, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) and UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Ian McCartney MP (email@example.com). (With BosNewsLife News Center and reports from Indonesia. Stay with BosNewsLife for continues coverage).
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