Appeals urged for 3 Indonesians despite execution postponement; new date looms

WASHINGTON (BP)--A last-minute stay of execution was issued by Indonesian authorities for three ethnic Christians sentenced to death for inciting Christian-Muslim violence on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island in 2000.

The country’s national police chief, Gen. Sutanto, as he is known, announced the stay of execution minutes before the three men were to face a firing squad just after midnight, the Associated Press reported Aug. 11.

In Washington, Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, a human rights organization that had rallied against the executions, issued a call for continued efforts in behalf of the three men.

“We are expecting the Indonesian government to put off the execution for a week, hoping that the national and worldwide furor ... will die down, and then they will attempt to carry out the execution,” King said in a news release.

King recounted that the Indonesian government has scheduled the execution of three Muslim militants on Aug. 22 for their convictions in the 2002 bombings that killed 202 people in nation’s Bali resort area.

The government “views the executions of these Christians as a way to balance justice –- very important in Indonesian society,” King said. “Overall concerns of justice or whether these men are the fall guys for thousands of other guilty individuals is secondary.”

King urged “concerned individuals around the world to keep up appeals to Indonesian embassies” and to ask their elected representatives to pressure the Indonesian government to reopen the case against the three Christians and that “all the violence against Christians [be] investigated.”

King noted: “One of the most amazing aspects of this case is that in attacks from 1998 to 2003, there were approximately 10,000 Christians murdered, 1,000 churches burned down and 80,000 homes burned down. In that orgy of violence directed against Christians, the only individuals the government chose to convict were these three [Christian] men. This is quite alarming especially considering all the indications that local and regional government officials aided and abetted these attacks against Christians.”

ICC continued to urge that appeals be e-mailed, phoned, faxed or delivered to Indonesia’s embassies in Washington as well as Ottawa, Canada, and London.

AP reported that Gen. Sutanto said the executions will be carried out sometime after Aug. 20. Gen. Sutanto said Sulawesi officials had told him the executions were postponed because they had become too busy with preparations for the celebration of Indonesia’s independence on Aug. 17, according to the AP.

The Vatican, in behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, had issued an appeal for clemency for the three men, who are Catholics, to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The European Union also had appealed in behalf of the men, while crowds of Christians in several Indonesian cities and towns had gathered to protest the imminent executions.

The three men, Fabianus Tibo, Marianus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva, were convicted in 2001 for inciting Christian-Muslim violence that led to the killing of some 1,000 people in the Poso port region of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.

The Poso conflict dates back to 1998 and has included attacks initiated by both Muslims and Christians. The turmoil also stirred an influx of Muslim fighters from the paramilitary Laskar Jihad movement, which TIME magazine reported as having “launched a campaign against Christian villages in Sulawesi ... to sweep all Christians out of the area.”

The AP reported that Thamrin Amal Tomagola, an expert on the Poso conflict, had described the three men as uneducated farmers who had been involved in the Poso violence but were not the ringleaders. Tomagola voiced concern that the government would lose valuable witnesses to the violence by executing the three men, AP reported.

Contact information for embassies in the United States, Canada and England follow:

Indonesian Embassy US

Phone: 202-775-5200; fax: 202-775-5365

http://www.embassyofindonesia.org/ click “Contact Us.”

2020 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, USA

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Indonesian Embassy Canada

Phone: 613-724-1100; fax: 613-724-1105

http://www.indonesia-ottawa.org/

55 Parkdale Ave., Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 1E5, Canada

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Indonesian Embassy UK

Phone: (020) 7499 7661; fax: (020) 7491 4993

38 Grosvenor Square, London W1K 2HW

ICC said Indonesian officials should be urged to:

-- “Delay the execution.

-- “Reopen a wide-ranging investigation into the Poso attacks to so that everyone who is guilty can be charged or amnestied.”


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