04/14/2006, 00.00
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Former Indonesian President against execution of three Catholics

by Benteng Reges
Well-known human rights campaigner Abdurrahman Wahid says the lives of Tibo and fellow prisoners should be spared. They are the only people sentenced to death for involvement in a conflict whose causes even the current head of state does not want to see elucidated. An NGO questions Susilo's moral integrity.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Former President Indonesian Abdurrahman Wahid (aka Gus Dur) has again spoken out against the execution of three Catholics as the chorus of voices critical of current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has not yet said whether he will heed an appeal for clemency, gets louder.

For Mr Wahid, who is an influential human rights activist, it is necessary to "cancel the execution to find out once and for all what happened during the sectarian violence in Poso (Central Sulawesi)". Three Catholics, Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu were tried and sentenced to death for involvement in a massacre of Muslims during the conflict in 2000.

Wahid's appeal has been echoed by other political leaders. Former House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, of the Golkar Party, called on the Attorney General Office to suspend the sentence "until Susilo makes his decision known".

Another Golkar member, Theo L Sambuaga, who chairs the House Commission I I (Home Affairs), said that "the death of Tibo and his fellow prisoners will be a great danger to the Indonesian justice system since human rights will be endangered. The public's trust in government will suffer".

The case involving the three Catholics continues to be front page news and elicit editorial articles in the national press.

The Indonesian Legal Aid Institute and Foundation (YLBHI) has raised doubts about the moral integrity of the current president who has so far "shown no political will to pardon the three Catholics."

"The President's big silence means that he is not against the death penalty [. . . but] every man has a right to life and no institution has the right to take it away," YLBHI officials said at a press conference.

One of YLBHI's leader, Robertus Robet, singled out the country's double standard when it comes to the death penalty issue. "An amendment to our constitution calls for the state to campaign for the right to life, but our criminal code recognises the death penalty. Susilo should base his decision on the highest legal reference in the country: the constitution."

Meanwhile, Central Sulawesi police announced yesterday that it was searching for the 16 people Tibo indicated as responsible for the Poso violence to arrest and interrogate them. So far one of them, Yahya Patiro, has issued a statement saying that is prepared to meet the police.

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