11/16/2005, 00.00
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Execution of three Indonesian Catholics looms

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has denied pardon, and the three men will "soon" be put to death; they are accused of being responsible for inter-religious clashes in Poso in 2000. The government decision may have been taken to balance out the recent death sentence handed down to three Islamic terrorists for the Bali bombings in 2002.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The death sentence handed down to three Indonesian Catholics has been upheld. They were convicted of complicity in inter-religious violence which struck Poso, central Sulawesi in 2000.

Last week, the Office of the Procurator General reiterated that Fabianus Tibo, 60 years, Dominggus da Silva, 42 years and Don Marinus Riwu, 48 years, will be executed soon but he did not give any further details.

Procurator General Abdul Rahman Saleh, said the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, refused to pardon the three men who come from Flores, a Catholic majority area East Nusa Tenggara province.

The Palu district court condemned Tibo and his friends to death after judging them to be among those responsible for a series of homicides of Muslims, perpetrated in Poso between May and June 2000, which sparked violent clashes between the two communities, leading to more than 1,000 deaths. The death sentence was later upheld by the Sulawesi High Court in May 2001 and then again by the Jakarta Supreme Court in November of the same year. At the moment, the three men are detained in a Palu prison, in the capital of the province of central Sulawesi.

Last week, in an interview with a Jakarta-based radio station, El Shinta, Fabianus Tibo, the father of four children, expressed all his sorrow for the president's decision to turn down the appeal for clemency. He said:  "The court verdict seems to be politically 'orchestrated' by certain groups who wanted to see us declared guilty for the mass rioting in Poso in mid 2000." The condemned man said he was even sorrier to "learn that my defense witness was told not to talk during the court process". About his imminent execution, Tibo said he had nothing to give except his fate to God.

Many Indonesians consider this case controversial, not least because it was marked by widespread intimidation by Islamic fundamentalists. Some observers said the jury had no choice but to "give in" to the factions who wanted the three Catholics found guilty.

The organisation International Christian Concern, said the recent death sentence handed down to three terrorists involved in the Bali bombings in 2002 compromised the possibility of a happier outcome in the saga of the three Catholics. By upholding their death penalty, the government has sought to show itself as just and to evade charges of being anti-Islamic or partial, added the organization in an article published on its website.

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