03/21/2007, 00.00
INDONESIA

Lenient sentence for those who beheaded three Christian girls

The three Islamist militants who masterminded and carried out the three murders in 2005 could have received the death penalty. Instead, they will spend between 14 and 20 years in prison. Hasanuddin, the brain behind the gruesome act, also wrote the notes left near the bodies in which he promised more Christian deaths.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Central Jakarta District Court Wednesday sentenced a Muslim militant to 20 years in prison for masterminding the gruesome murder of three Christian schoolgirls in the Central Sulawesi's town of Poso in 2005. The two men who killed the three girls and beheaded them were sentenced instead to 14 years in prison. Given the fact that all three Islamists could have received the death sentence the court’s decision is very lenient. The Indonesian press noted that the sentences corresponded to the demands of the prosecution.

Hasanuddin, who is linked to the terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah, was found guilty of organising the crime, buying the machetes used in the beheading, and writing the notes left near the bodies threatening additional murders.

According to the prosecutor Payaman SH, Hasanuddin had asked his men to get “at least a hundred Christian heads in Poso” as compensation for the Muslims who died in the violent sectarian clashes that had occurred between 1999 and 2001 in Poso itself. Clashes between Muslims and Christians had left more than a thousand dead and driven even more out of their homes. What triggered the violence has not been fully elucidated.  

For Judge Udar Siregar, Hasanuddin’s actions have to be categorised as terrorist crimes which might have reignited sectarian violence in the area where a peace deal was worked out in 2001. However, tensions between the two religious communities flared up again in September 2006 when three Catholics were summarily sentenced to death and executed for an attack against an Islamic school in 2000 in which 70 people died.

Hasanuddin was captured by Indonesian security forces last January with his two accomplices, Lilik Purnomo and Irwanto Irano. All three confessed to their role in the crime and were forgiven by the victims’ relatives.

The decapitation of the three girls had triggered worldwide condemnation, including by both Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Pope Benedict XVI, who called the deed “a barbaric murder.”

Jemaah Islamiyah’s network operates in South-East Asia and is linked to al-Qaeda. It has been held responsible for several attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

Today Indonesia’s National Police confirmed that it captured various Jemaah Islamiyah militants in a vast anti-terrorism operation in Yogyakarta (Central Java). However, it failed to arrest Abu Dujana, a leading suspect in the attack against the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, who was able to get away during the gun battle.

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