Indonesia Postpones Execution Christians

Monday, August 14, 2006

By BosNewsLife Correspondents Stefan J. Bos and Eric Leijenaar with BosNewsLife News Center, BosNewsLife Research and reports from across Indonesia

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife) -- Amid international pressure, Indonesia postponed on Saturday, August 12, the execution of three Christians found guilty in 2001 of violence against Muslims in the province of Central Sulawesi, apparently minutes before they were to be shot by a firing squad.

Coffins had reportedly been prepared for the three Catholic men, Fabianus Tibo, 60, Dominggus da Silva, 39, and Marinus Riwu, 48, in Palu, the provincial capital, while doctors were waiting to be taken to the secret execution site to pronounce them dead.

The leader of the world's over 1 billion Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI, had requested clemency "on humanitarian grounds" on their behalf to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, though officials denied the stay of execution had resulted from any international pressure.

The European Union, where the death penalty has been banned, also appealed to Indonesia to cancel the execution. All three men have maintained their innocence, but their final appeal to Yudhoyono was turned down last year.


Christian investigators had raised doubts over what they described as "shaky evidence" against the three inmates after Muslims witnessed at trials that the Christians were not involved in the deadly sectarian clashes in 2000 in Central Sulawesi's Poso region, but instead provided humanitarian aid to different religious groups during the violence.

In addition, Reverend Rinaldy Damanik, Head of the Protestant Church in Central Sulawesi questioned the authorities' sincerity in dealing with attacks against Christians.

He cited a massacre of 200 Christians where "not one person was ever arrested, charged or imprisoned, let alone be executed for this heinous crime". He wondered why the proposed "general amnesty" for those condemned in this case "has not been applied to the three men."


Till the last moment, the three Catholics sentenced to death went to confession and took part in the Eucharist, meeting priests and their defense team Catholic sources said. In remarks distributed by Catholic news agency AsiaNews, death row inmate Fabianus Tibo said he was "ready to meet the Lord." He said, "I feel He is very close to me."

Inmate Da Silva reportedly told his lawyers "to promote justice and fight for an honest legal system in Indonesia. Tell the Pope, the world, and all of Indonesian society, that there is still a lot of injustice in Indonesian courts."

Tibo’s family is close-knit. "Take care of mum," he was quoted as telling his eldest son Robertus, who said he was "profoundly saddened in seeing this injustice done to my father." Tibo's wife, Nurlin Kasiala, was visibly too distraught to say anything, AsiaNews reported from the scene.


Vigil prayers and protests against the execution of the three men continued across Indonesia drawing both Christians and Muslims. In the Christian-dominated town of Tentena on Sulawesi, dozens of people reportedly occupied the local prosecutor's office and said they would not move unless the executions were delayed.

Scores of others prayed in the town's cathedral, The Associated Press and other news sources said. Speaking minutes before the men were scheduled to be killed, national police Chief Gen. Sutanto said the executions could be carried out after August 17.

He said Sulawesi officials had told him the execution was delayed because they were too busy preparing for celebrations to mark Indonesia's independence on August 17, a day when inmates can receive amnesty.


Murderers, drug traffickers and terrorists are generally not considered, although the President in theory could grant pardons to the three men, Reuters news agency commented. He has already, however, denied them clemency once.

"I have received reports from the Central Sulawesi police chief and results from an agreement reached by the police administration and local officials there, that it is now planned after August 17," Sutano told reporters in Jakarta. "This is just a matter of timing."

They are due to be executed on August 22 unless they request a case review, news reports said. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-populated nation, but experts say that Christians and Muslims live in roughly equal numbers in parts of the eastern island chain of Sulawesi and in Maluku. (Stay with BosNewsLife for continues coverage on this developing story).

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