Indonesian Catholics to face firing squad on Saturday

Central Sulawesi authorities have informed the families of three Indonesian Catholics convicted for their part in Muslim-Christian violence that raged in the Indonesian province from 1998-2001 that they will face the firing squad on 12 August.

AsiaNews reports that three Catholics on death row in Indonesia have only days left to live. Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwa will face a firing squad at 00.15pm (local time) in Palu.

After months of postponement, second thoughts by the authorities and international appeals, including the Pope, the Attorney General's Office of Central Sulawesi issued the order and the official announcement of the execution of the three men.

They were condemned to death for allegedly masterminding the massacre of 200 Muslims in Poso during inter-religious clashes in 2000.

The news was confirmed by the eldest son of Fabianus Tibo, 29-year-old Robert, who received a letter from the Palu Prosecutor's Office. "My father and his two friends will be executed on Saturday," he said.

The youth said the letter was not sent to him directly but through a distinguished leader of the local Christian community, Rev Rinaldy Damanik, chairman of Central Sulawesi Churches of Synod. Robert said: "The priest sent the letter to a Catholic priest in Tentena, where I went to pick it up."

For their part, Robert and the families of Silva and Riwa continue to oppose what they describe as an "unjust condemnation" and they refuse to sign the letter delivered. Robert said: "Our three families have something in common: they all reject the execution seeing that the presumed involvement of our fathers in the conflict of Poso did not emerge clearly in the trial."

He continued: "It is unjust and we are very sorry to learn that all the new legal evidence provided by [the men's] lawyers was not taken seriously by the court and the government."

A series of appeals from the three have been rejected by courts at all levels, twice at the Supreme Court, since they first received the death sentences in 2001 and the president refused to pardon them last year (2005).

According to Malaysian newspaper Sun2Surf, the legal process has been finalised. On the possibility of a delay to the executions, that's the authority of the local officials, said I Wayan Pasek Suartha, spokesman for the attorney-general's office in Jakarta, who refused to confirm the date.

Last March (2006), local and international Catholic groups asked Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to reconsider his stance on the death sentences against the three men but there has been no indication he will intervene.

Muslim-Christian clashes raged in Central Sulawesi's Poso region from late 1998 to 2001, killing 2,000 people before a peace accord took effect.

Meanwhile, three Islamic militants sentenced to death for their leading roles in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people have also recently received notification that their executions had been set for this month.

While in Australia, AM reports that the Federal Government is being urged to speak out against the upcoming executions of the three Bali bombers, if it hopes to save the lives of Australians on death row in foreign countries.

Australia's political leaders, including Prime Minister John Howard, are on the record as saying they do not oppose the execution of those behind the Bali bombing.

But a report released by the Lowy Institute today argues that comments supporting capital punishment are damaging Australia's reputation in Asia and its chances of securing leniency for its own citizens.

"We have seen blatant and deliberate departures from Australia's official policy of opposition to capital punishment in all cases," report author Dr Fullilove Michael said.

"This hurts our interest [and] it makes us look hypocritical when we ask for our own people to be spared."

Three Indonesian Catholics face firing squad on 12 August (Asia News, 9/8/06)
Indonesia set to execute 3 Christian fighters (Sun2Surf, 9/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Indonesian Embassy, Canberra
Amnesty International Australia

Indonesian death row Catholics lose court appeal (CathNews 16/5/06)
Further appeal opportunity for Indonesian death row Catholics (CathNews 19/4/06)
Activists maintain fight for death row Indonesian Catholics (CathNews 10/4/06)
Second clemency plea for death row Indonesian Catholics (CathNews 28/3/06)
Pope sends envoy to death row Indonesians (CathNews 22/3/06)
Indonesian bishop condemns Catholics' death sentence (CathNews 29/11/05)
Looming execution of three Indonesian Catholics (CathNews 17/11/05)
Indonesian bishop concerned about resurgence of violence in Poso (CathNews 16/8/02)

Condemnation of Bali bombers' executions urged (ABC News Online, 9/8/06)

10 Aug 2006