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ICC Note

The “inter-religious” conflict that these men are on death row for was instigated by extremist Muslims moving into a predominantly Christian area in Indonesia and inciting violence. These three men were involved in some attacks against Muslims, and they are now being singled out and scapegoated as the only “guilty” party.

Sulawesi bishop calls for cancelling death sentence imposed on three Catholics

by Benteng Reges

AsiaNews (01/25/06)

To view full article, click here: Sulawesi Bishop Calls for Cancelling Death Sentence on Catholics

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Mgr Joseph Suwatan, bishop of Manado , wants the death sentence imposed on three Indonesian Catholics be cancelled. He made the request in a meeting today with Indonesia ’s Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh, in his Jakarta office. With him were Arifin Assegaf, a member of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia or MUI) of North Sulawesi and Rev Nico Gara from the Manado-based Christian Indonesian University .

Poso, the scene of bloody clashes between Christians and Muslims in 1998-2001 that left about 2,000 people dead, is within the jurisdiction of Bishop Suwatan’s diocese. And it is as a result of a series of murders in Poso in 2000 that the Palu District Court and Indonesia ’s Supreme Court sentenced Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu to death. The three Catholics have been in prison since 2001 and even if no date has been officially set, their execution is fast approaching

Although Bishop Suwatan did not release any statement following his meeting with the attorney general, MUI leader Assegaf, who is also a member of the inter-faith forum Poso Solidarity, explained why they took this step.

“We want the death sentence to be cancelled because the three men have important revelations to make. This cannot be ignored,” he said.

Speaking from prison, Fabianus Tibo revealed that 16 people were involved in the 2000 sectarian clashes, including local authorities. But his information was not part of the trial record, or presented during the appeal process to the Supreme Court.

According to the Muslim clergyman, Tibo and his fellow inmates are just “scapegoats of this organised crime. They are ordinary peasants, semi-literate and someone in Poso made sure that they would be found guilty for the clashes of 2000 and 2001”.

Rev Gara stressed the importance of cancelling the death sentences as well in order to address Tibo’s claims in a court of law.

“Tibo is key witness,” he said. “Should the executions take place the real identity of the culprits won’t be known.”

Meanwhile, the three men’s defence lawyer, John Panjaitan, announced that he was ready to submit new evidence on behalf of his clients.

He also slammed those who have tried to “politicise” the case. “Their purpose is clear. Tibo and the others will be executed and the real culprits will not be found,” he said.

At the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) however, the case is closed. “The supreme and local courts have decided and we can only execute their orders,” said an AGO spokesperson.

Within Indonesia the trial of the three Catholic men remains controversial. Its proceedings were marred by large-scale intimidation by Islamic fundamentalists. Moreover, no Muslim has so far been indicted, let alone tried for the events in question