11/15/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA

Men involved in the decapitation of three Christian schoolgirls go on trial in Jakarta

by Benteng Reges
Two men involved in the triple murder in Poso (Central Sulawesi) in 2005 go on trial. Both risk the death penalty. In a separate trial, the other defendant admits his guilt and names the man behind the killing, a former Muslim rebel from a Mindanao.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A second trial involving men accused of decapitating three Christian school girls in Poso (Central  Sulawesi) last year opened today Jakarta. The two defendants, Lilik Purnomo and Irwanto Irano, both risk the death penalty if found guilty. In the indictment they are charged with "wilfully participating in a terrorist act using violence to sow terror and fear in people".

The two men, both 28, belong to a group called Tanah Runtuh, whose leader, Hasanuddin, is on trial for the same crime. He has pleaded guilty.

On October 29, 2005, four Christian schoolgirls, all around 15 years of age, were walking home. Three were assaulted and beheaded by men using machetes near the Gebang Rejo area in Poso.

The case repulsed public opinion. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono denounced the triple murder; Pope Benedict XVI called it "a barbaric assassination".

State Prosecutor Asep Sumaryono said today in court that both Irano and Purnomo were involved in the decapitations with other terrorists who are still on the run.

In presenting the evidence, he described in details what happened. The two defendants were not the material executors of the crime but on orders from Hasanuddin they found the weapons needed to carry out the misdeed. With half a million rupees they went to a Poso market to buy the machetes and the plastic bags where the heads were placed.

In his trail Hasanuddin meanwhile formally admitted that he organised the action, but contrary to the prosecutor's claim, said it was not his idea.

According to the terrorists the idea of beheading three Christian schoolgirls belongs to Guru Sanusi. "He financed the operation and explained that he wanted to carry out killings like those he did when he was with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao".

During the trial hearing, Hasanuddin asked the families of the victims for forgiveness and promised he would not do such actions again.

He did never the less say that the attack against the three Christian schoolgirls was in retaliation for the many Muslims killed during the sectarian clashes that beset Poso in 1998-2001.

In those years Muslims and Christians attacked each other killing about 2,000 people and forcing another 100,000 to become internal refugees.

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