09/21/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Three Indonesian Catholics executed by firing squad

by Benteng Reges
First reports suggest the three were executed at Palu's airport. The news is met with grief by the families and all those who were taking part in prayer vigils. In Central Timor people are protesting; demonstrators peacefully take over the Prosecutor's Office.

Palu (AsiaNews) – The deed is done and Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva are no more. From their prison in Palu, the three men were taken amid tight security to their place of execution. The shots that ended their lives resounded at 1.10 am local time (GMT + 08:00), this according to reliable sources AsiaNews contacted. Journalists were not allowed to follow the security escort that took away the three men. The same sources said that given the extraordinary deployment of security forces, the execution by firing squad most certainly took place at Palu's Mutiara Airport.

Several priests, including Fr Jimmy Tumbelaka, who served as the prisoners' spiritual guide, gathered at St Mary's Church in downtown Palu to pray; with them, hundreds of Catholic faithful. Father Tumbelaka also confirmed that the execution had taken place.

Prayers are underway in Tibo's and his fellow prisoners' home town of Ende, Nusa Tenggara Timur province. Speaking from there, Sani, a close relative of Tibo, said: "The whole family cannot but accept this cruel destiny. We have no possibility to travel to Palu to pay our final respects to Fabianus's remains." Tibo made arrangements so that his body will be buried in the village of Beteleme in Morowali, South Sulawesi.

Security forces are on high alert in various cities, including Ende, where Tibo was born. The same measures have been put in place in Maumere, da Silva's birthplace. His adoptive family is "very distraught", not the least because they cannot repatriate the body as he asked. The Prosecutor rejected the request on security grounds. All three men will be taken on two planes to South Sulawesi where they will be buried.

Protests over the execution continue without an end in sight. Hundreds of people, laity and religious, have peacefully "taken over" the Prosecutor's Office in Kefamenanu, Central Timor Regency (Nusa Tenggara Timur province)—among the protesters: Umar Sage, head of Kefamenanu's Indonesian Muslim Ulemas Council (MUI), Rev Gabriel Manek Amteme and Fr Aloysius Kosat Pr.

In Kupang, the mostly Catholic capital of Nusa Tenggara province, people have decided to spend the night under the heavens.

Tensions are rising in Poso and Tentenna; thousands of people are protesting as Christian leaders call for calm once news about the execution spread.

As late as Thursday afternoon, the Apostolic Nunciature in Jakarta was hoping for a miracle that might spare Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva.

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