Palu (AsiaNews) The families of three Indonesian CatholicsFabianus Tibo, Dominggus "Domi" da Silva and Marinus Riwusentenced to death for their alleged role in the 2000 Poso violence wrote to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, appealing for clemency. Through their lawyers, their letter was handed today to presidential spokesperson Andi Alfian Mallarangeng.
Stephen Roy Rening, who coordinates the three men's defence team known as Padma, issued a statement at a press conference in Jakarta, explaining the bases for their request of clemency. He announced that "some witnesses have come forward with new, important developments concerning the 2000 Poso violence".
"At least nine eyewitnesses," Mr Rening said, "have testified before a court in Palu last March 9 that Mr Tibo was not present at the location where Muslims were killed."
He added that the claim that "Mr Tibo led an army of 700 Christians against Poso Muslims on May 14, 2000, is 100 per cent false."
The other charge, namely that Tibo was a member of the "Red Army" (an alleged Christian paramilitary group of 130 people) was refuted by five witnesses who said the accused was at Christian orphanage near St Theresa Parish Church in Poso at the time when this "army" attacked a group of Muslim worshippers at prayer. The two locations are three kilometres apart.
For Padma, President Susilo can act in cases like this one under Law Regulation No 2/2003 which states "in addition to the right to pardon, the President has the right to suspend or cancel the death penalty sentences."
Today's is the second request of its kind. The first one was made on April13, 2005, but was rejected.
In the meantime, many people are expressing their support for the death row prisoners. Early last week, more than 500 people demonstrated in Jakarta calling for the sentence to be overturned. Important Indonesian NGOs were represented like Indonesian Flobamora Community, Imparsial, Legal Aid Institute (LBH), Kontras, Kapal Perempuan and the Indonesian Association of Catholic Students.
At the head of the demonstration people carried a banner that said: "Let out the truth! We want freedom for Tibo, da Silva and Riwu".