Indonesia: Stay of execution after papal plea
Aug. 11 (CWNews.com)
The Indonesian government has announced a stay of execution for 3 Christians who were scheduled to face a firing squad on August 12, the AsiaNews service has reported. The reprieve for the condemned men is said to be for at least one week.
Pope Benedict XVI had sent a last-minute appeal to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, asking for a "an act of clemency" to stop the scheduled execution of three Christian men sentenced in connection with the religious violence that swept the eastern Sulawesi region in 1999-2001.
The Pope's appeal-- contained in a telegram from Cardinal Angelo Sodano (bio - news), the Vatican Secretary of State-- cited both "humanitarian grounds" and "the particularity of the case." The message also reminds the Indonesian leader of the Vatican's consistent opposition to the use of capital punishment.
Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva, and Marinus Riwu were due to face a firing squad on Saturday, August 12, after being convicted of plotting massacres during the religious warfare in Indonesia's eastern islands. Their appeals and the pleas of international leaders-- including previous pleas from the Vatican-- have been fruitless.
Human-rights groups have protested that the three men were convicted after a trial in which heavy pressure from Islamic militants influenced the court. Indonesia's minority Christian population has also pointed out that their conviction was the result of selective prosecution, since no Muslim has yet faced trial in connection with the violence that cost more than 2,000 lives.
The bloody conflicts in the Sulawesi region-- where Christians and Muslims live in roughly equal numbers-- were marked by militia activity on both sides. However, Christians frequently complained that the Indonesian military provided aid for the Muslim militia groups.
Despite the Pope's appeal, and the popular demonstrations calling for a reprieve, Christians in Indonesia had little hope that the executions will be called off. Plans were already in place for funeral services for the three condemned men, to be held in the cathedral of the Manadau diocese.
The government of Indonesia-- the world's most populous Muslim nation, with 85% of the people embracing Islam-- had been under pressure from militant Islamic groups to proceed with the execution, especially in light of the pending execution of terrorists convicted of the Bali bombing. A week-long reprieve for the Christian men would still leave open the possibility that they could be put to death before the scheduled execution of the Bali bombers on August 22.
Christians in Indonesia have welcomed the government's decision to postpone the executions, but continue to organize prayer vigils and public demonstrations asking for a new, fair trial for the 3 men.