Jakarta (AsiaNews) The trial of Hasanuddin, the first of three men charged with the 2005 decapitation of three Christian schoolgirls in Poso, Central Sulawesi, opened today.
According to Prosecutor Payaman SH, Hasanuddin gave orders to his men to get "the heads of at least a hundred Kongkoli (a local an epithet for Christians) youth, adults and women". "This is vengeance," the order read. "Blood will be paid with blood, a life with a life, a head with a head". If found guilty, all three face the death penalty.
The three victims were attacked with a machete and beheaded in the Gebang Rejo area in Poso. Two heads were left near a police station and the other was dumped in front of a church. The crime shocked public opinion both in Indonesia and abroad.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the crime; Pope Benedict XVI called it a 'barbaric murder".
Hasanuddin, who is thought to have masterminded the triple murder, appeared before the judges in Jakarta's central courthouse where the trial is being for security reasons.
The murders threatened to reignite violence between Sulawesi's Muslims and Christians, who were involved in sectarian violence between 1999 and 2001. Despite a peace deal in 2002, violence has repeatedly flared up since then.
Hasanuddin, who is charged with premeditated murder along with Lilik Purnomo and Irwanto Irano, did not make any statement at the beginning of the hearing.
Upon entering the courthouse, the three men's lawyer said all three admitted to their involvement in the murders, which was perpetrated as an act of revenge against Christians for the death of Muslims.