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ICC Note:

Attorney General renews his decision to carry out the execution sentence on three Catholics condemned for sparking religious violence in Poso in 2000. No Muslims are facing an even remotely comparable punishment.

AsiaNews (04/05/06) – Three Indonesian Catholics condemned to death in central Sualwesi, have faced the umpteenth setback. Today, the Attorney General (AG), Abdul Rahman Saleh reiterated that Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus “Domi” da Silva and Marinus Riwu – convicted of fuelling violence in Poso in 2000 – will be executed “possibly in April”.

His announcement poured cold water on the enthusiasm and hope that greeted previous news of an execution delay because “important papers” were missing. This had been stated by the Office of the State Attorney General, which also said the execution date had been secretly fixed for last Sunday.

Yesterday, the AG told the press that the legal review of the case urged by the PADMA group of lawyers, and the moral support extended by human rights activists and leaders of all religions, would not serve to change the verdict. “The death sentence is definite,” echoed the spokesman of the office of Saleh.

On 3 April, meanwhile, the head of the AG’s office in central Sulawesi met police officials and the Palu mayor behind closed doors to plan the execution, together with other high-ranking officials of the provincial administration.

The news sparked more criticism and accusations from civil society. Many people are increasingly convinced that the trial of the three Catholics was dictated by pressure from fundamentalist Muslims and that Tibo and his friends are “scapegoats”.

Even leaders of the Muslim community have ranged themselves on the side of the condemned men. Alamsyah Hanafiah, a lawyer, expressed concern at the “stubbornness” of the AG and his indifference about the “voice of hopeless people”. The Muslim lawyer joined his voice to those of the families of the three condemned men and of PADMA, in calling once again for clemency from the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Fr Tumbelaka, the parish priest of the church in Tentana, Poso, has also protested. He said he will not accompany the three men to the firing squad. The law stipulates that a Catholic priest must be present before and after the execution of condemned Catholics.

Leaders of religious communities in central Sulawesi fear the death of Tibo and his friends could fuel further clashes in central Sulawesi , where Christians and Muslims live in equal ratio. The province was already torn apart by violent inter-faith conflict in 2000 and 2001.