Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Indonesia: Poso 3 facing imminent execution

[Please note: long post]

Three Indonesian Catholics may be days -- or hours -- away from execution following the rejection of their second appeal by the Supreme Court last week.

Fabianus Tibo, 60, Dominggus da Silva, 42, and Marinus Riwu, 48, were sentenced to death in April 2001 for premeditated murder and inciting riots in the town of Poso, Central Sulawesi. They were convicted of orchestrating sectarian violence in May 2000, in which hundreds of Muslims were killed.

About 2,000 people are estimated to have died in clashes between Christians and Muslims on the island of Sulawesi between 1998 and 2001.

Catholic newsagency AsiaNews.it reports the three men were last week placed in isolation in the Palu prison in Central Sulawesi, in preparation for their execution.

AsiaNews reports the panel of five Supreme Court judges unanimously rejected the second appeal on 10 May, saying that now "there were no more legal venues available to the [the three prisoners'] defence team".

"Others responsible"
The men have denied planning the attacks and, on 1 February 2006, their lawyers announced they had new evidence demonstrating that 16 other men had masterminded the violence.

Their lawyers said the three men were key witnesses in the case and called for a fresh investigation into the attacks.

The men's supporters have claimed that the attacks were organised or supported by well-connected officials from the government, military and intelligence services.

Divided responses
Muslim organisations were reportedly divided in their response to the men's conviction and death sentences.

In early April, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim organization, called for a stay of execution until the men’s claims of innocence could be fully examined.

NU leader Ulama Masdar Farid Mas'udi warned that the execution of the three could inflame religious and ethnic divisions and revive the conflict.

Former president and Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid made several appeals for clemency, including signing a joint letter asking for a stay of execution, along with leaders from the Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, and Buddhist communities. The letter was sent to President Yudhoyono on 7 April.

Other religious leaders and human rights organisations have called for the death sentences to be delayed or overturned completely.

In contrast, several Muslim student groups in Central Sulawesi have called for the quick execution of the three Christians.

Hundreds of Muslims reportedly held a rally outside the Central Sulawesi Prosecutor's Office on 21 April, demanding that the men be executed immediately for their role in the riots.

Trial questions
Amnesty International has expressed its concern at "reports indicating that the trial of the three men in Palu District Court did not meet international standards of fairness".

The organisation said "witness testimony provided as evidence by the defence may have been ignored by the Court when giving its verdict". It said armed demonstrators had also reportedly gathered outside the courthouse demanding the three men be convicted, and this "intimidation may have affected the outcome of the trial".

Appeals exhausted
The three were sentenced to death in the Palu District Court in Central Sulawesi, and their sentences were upheld by the Central Sulawesi High Court and the Indonesian Supreme Court later in 2001.

In February 2006, Indonesian authorities were reportedly preparing to carry out the death sentences. The Central Sulawesi Prosecutor’s office was reported to have ordered three coffins and begun final preparations to execute the men.

The men exhausted all avenues of appeal when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono rejected their appeal for clemency on 10 November.

In April 2006, the Supreme Court agreed to conduct a second review of the case, but the Attorney General's Office said the review would not change the original death sentence. Spokesman Masyhudi Ridwan told The Jakarta Post that his office would not accept a new ruling by the Supreme Court, and it was "still preparing the execution, not delaying it".

Generating debate
The case has attracted widespread coverage in Indonesia, and generated an unprecedented level of discussion about the country's use of the death penalty.

For example, on 15 April The Jakarta Post published a column entitled "Death sentence not a solution but a problem", by Frans H. Winarta, a Jakarta-based human rights lawyer and member of the National Law Commission.

He wrote that "the concept of capital punishment as a deterrence must be eliminated if Indonesia wants to be considered a civilized society".

"Indonesia must not embrace the death penalty in its criminal justice system, not only because it is inhumane, but also because it runs counter to our Constitution. The right to life is guaranteed and protected by the Constitution, particularly as far as Article 28 is concerned. Therefore, the new Criminal Code should not adopt the death penalty."

In another high-profile capital case, Indonesian authorities are also preparing to execute three men convicted of organising the October 2002 Bali bombings.

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