Thousands rally to save death row Catholics in Indonesia

More than 5000 people took to the streets in Indonesia in protest at the planned Saturday execution of three Catholics convicted for their part in Muslim-Christian riots.

AsiaNews reports that the protesters took to the streets in different cities in Indonesia to call for the reopening of the "unjust trial" that condemned the three Catholics to death.

The three Catholics - Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwa - have been accused of masterminding Christian-Muslim violence in Poso, central Sulawesi province, in 2001.

According to AP, few people have been brought to justice from either the Christian or Muslim communities over the violence that resulted in the death of around 9,000 people.

The three men on death row have insisted they are not guilty, but their final appeal was turned down by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last year.

Amnesty International and church groups have said it was concerned at reports indicating that the trial of the three men did not meet international standards of fairness.

Meanwhile some commentators fear that authorities want the execution carried out before those of the convicted Bali bombers which are expected on 22 August in order to avoid potential protests by Islamic extremists.

Representatives of several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Jakarta critical of the planned execution are also gathering at the Wahid Institute, run by the former President, Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, who already previously declared his support for the three Catholics.

Members of the Synod of Indonesian Churches and the Indonesian Bishops' Conference are also there.

Fr Maxi Un Bria of the Justice and Peace Commission of Kupang Archdiocese is one of those promoting the rallies. The priest issued a statement urging local Catholics to demonstrate peacefully and to pray for the condemned men. He said: "A man's death is in the hands of God, not of a firing squad."

Meanwhile, in Rome, AGI reports that Valeria Martano of the Sant'Egidio Community said that Indonesia's two largest Islamic organisations, which account for over 80 million people, are in favour of a review of the current law on death penalty.

Ms Martano said that Manado Bishop Joseph Suwatan signed a joint humanitarian appeal together with Ulama Muslims head K H Arifin Assagaf and the president of the Association of Protestant Churches, Nico Gara, to suspend the executions.

Bishop Suwatan of Manado visited the three condemned men in March on behalf of Benedict XVI and communicated the Pope's concern and solidarity.

Thousands of Indonesians rally to save death row Catholics (AsiaNews, 10/8/06)

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

Indonesian Catholics to face firing squad on Saturday (CathNews 10/8/06) a/A>
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)

Islamic bodies willing to revise death penalty law (AGI, 10/8/06)
Indonesians protesting execution plan (Ninemsn/AP 11/8/06)

11 Aug 2006