11/21/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Christians beheaded in Poso: parents pardon killers

by Benteng Reges

The families of the victims met the three terrorists accused of the murders and accepted their apologies. The Indonesian authorities described it as a historic moment, saying they hoped it would serve to bring peace to Poso.

Poso (AsiaNews) – The parents of three Christian girls who were beheaded last year in Poso, central Sulawesi, have forgiven their daughters' executioners. Yesterday, Indonesian police organized a meeting between families of the victims and the three terrorists now on trial. Hasanuddin, who organized the triple murder, repeatedly said he had repented and expressed his profound sorrow together with his two accomplices, Irwanto and Haris.

In tears, the mother of one of the girls said she was ready to pardon them. The Islamic militants and Christian families embraced and shook hands as a sign of peace.

The police spokesman said "the meeting of Poso has no political ends other than to promote harmony" and the forces of order had merely facilitated the encounter. The police chief Sutanto described the meeting as a "historic moment" when the victims and murderers could "exchange their deepest feelings and seek to forgive."

Indonesia's vice president Jusuf Kalla, said he hoped yesterday's meeting would be "an opportunity to bring peace to Poso".

On October 29, 2005, four Christian schoolgirls, all around 15 years of age, were walking home. Three were assaulted and beheaded by men using machetes near the Gebang Rejo area in Poso. The case repulsed public opinion and was strongly condemned by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Benedict XVI.

Hasanuddin, Irwanto and Haris have pleaded guilty to their part in their killings and could be condemned to death. The accused men said they attacked the young girls to avenge the death of many Muslims during inter-faith clashes in Poso between 1998 and 2001.

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