04/11/2006, 00.00
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Card. Darmaatmadja: spare death row Catholics in the name of peace

by Benteng Reges

Indonesian civil society representatives have called on the president to clarify the "real reasons" behind the sentence and the "rigid" attitude of the Attorney General. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has yet to respond to a request for pardon.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja has joined the chorus of religious and political leaders calling for the overturning of the death sentence facing three Indonesian Catholics. According to the Cardinal, chairman of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, sparing the three condemned men would be a move of "inestimable" value for the promotion of pacific coexistence in Poso, central Sulawesi, between Christians and Muslims. Leaders of the Indonesian Churches of Synod and of the Buddhist Association Bikkhu Dharmavimala, are in agreement with the cardinal. Many leaders have said: "If they are executed, the match of inter-faith hatred may be re-ignited."

Between 1998 and 2001, Poso was the scene of violent clashes between the two communities that left more than 2,000 people dead. Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu have been charged with responsibility of the massacre of hundreds of Muslims, perpetrated in the context of this conflict. So far, not even one Muslim has been tried in relation to the clashes.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) to explain clearly the "rigid" stand taken by the Attorney General (AG) and the "real reasons" for the harsh sentence. Abdul Rahman Saleh, together with the Supreme Court, has refused to review the case as requested by the defence, and would like to proceed to imminent execution. The AG did not want to take into account the revelations of Tibo, about 16 people involved in the 2000 violence, and did not even consider the factor of new witnesses who could absolve the three Catholics.

SBY is the last hope of Tibo and his friends. He is currently considering a second request for clemency from the families of the death row prisoners. The president has not yet given an answer. Last weekend, however, after meeting SBY, the minister for security and legal affairs, Admiral Widodo Adisutjipto, said: "The law must be applied: the show must go on." Abdul Rahman Saleh and General Sutanto, the police chief, were present at the meeting.

The Jakarta Lawyers Club criticized the "stupidity" of the attitude of the AG's Office, which should encourage further investigations into the 16 suspects named by Tibo.

A member of PADMA – the group of lawyers defending the three Catholics – said the government had no intention of shedding light on the conflict of Poso and the Moluccas, because some former officials of the police and army may have played a "dirty role". The lawyer Harris Hutabarat recalled that SBY was "reluctant" to bring these facts to light already between 1998 and 2001, when he was Minister for Security and Political Affairs. "It's not surprising that he does not act now that he is head of State."

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See also
Execution of three Catholics postponed amid Jakarta rallies
7,000 march and pray for death row Catholics
Priest ready to die to save condemned Catholics
Poso: Synod of Christian Church implicated in 2000 inter-faith clashes
Catholics get second chance to appeal death sentence


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