09/23/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Body of one executed Catholic left in church "for few hours"

by Benteng Reges

The authorities handed over da Silva's body to his relatives. It was washed and placed in a new coffin to be taken to St Mary's Church in Palu. The attorney-general insists, however, on denying permission for da Silva's body to be taken to his native village, where everything is ready for his burial. The relatives of Tibo and Riwu refuse to submit to the ban on a funeral service for the three executed men.

Palu (AsiaNews) – The authorities of Palu have allowed the many people protesting for two days against the execution of three Catholics to exhume one of their bodies, to bring it "for a few moments" to church. For "security" reasons, the attorney general of Palu, central Sulawesi, has banned a funeral service for Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu, and Dominggus da Silva in the town's cathedral of St Mary, as requested by the three men before their death.

The first two men will be buried in the village of Beteleme in Morowali in Poso, central Sulawesi, according to their last wishes, while permission has been withheld for the transfer of da Silva's body to his native village on Flores island in the Catholic majority province of East Nusa Tenggara.

The decision of the authorities sparked violent protests by the local Christian community and relatives of the victims. Today, for the first time, there was a glimmer of positive news: Stephen Roy Rening, one of the lawyers who defended "Tibo and friends" said the attorney-general and police chief of Palu had given the go-ahead to da Silva's relatives to exhume the body, buried yesterday in Paboya cemetery near Poso. Shortly after the exhumation, his relatives took his body to the Christian hospital of Bala Keselamtan in Palu, where they washed and dressed it, and put it in a coffin supplied by St Mary's parish. It will be taken there for a few hours.

So far, however, the attorney-general has not issued any statements on chances of taking da Silva back to his native village. Rening said everything was ready to welcome his remains on the island of Flores: "If the authorities give permission, da Silva's body could be taken on Sunday or Monday." The lawyer continued: "The remains of these people now belong to their families, not to the state." Even the relatives of Tibo and Riwu have not yielded to the idea that their dear ones cannot have a "Catholic funeral in Church" just for "security reasons".

Da Silva, Tibo and Riwu had asked their families to refuse to allow the state to take over their bodies after they were shot, as a sign of protest against a sentence that has always been declared as unjust. The three Catholics were executed in the early hours of 22 September in Palu, despite appeals for a reprieve from all corners of the world, including the Vatican. They were found responsible for the massacre of Muslims during inter-faith clashes in Poso in 2000. The trial against them was marred by strong pressure exerted by Islamic extremists, by attempted corruption and by illegal procedures. Around 150 people were tried for the bloody clashes that rocked Poso in 2000. Around 80 – including only a few Muslims – were imprisoned, all for terms of less than 15 years.

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