Three Christian men in Indonesia who claim they were falsely accused of murder during attacks by radical Muslims are scheduled to be executed as early as Thursday.
A Washington, D.C.-based human rights monitor claims the cases of Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus Dasilva and Marinus Riwu are being rushed to a conclusion in order to appease Muslims upset by the scheduled execution of three Islamic terrorists charged in the 2002 Bali bombing.
The Indonesian government is “sacrificing true justice to provide judicial ‘balance,'” charges Jeremy Sewall, a policy analyst for International Christian Concern, or ICC.
“This is not justice,” Sewall said. “This is deception, cover-up and appeasement.”
The men were sentenced to death during the conflict in Poso, Central Sulewesi, in 2000. As WorldNetDaily reported in 2001, more than 2,000 people died in three years of clashes in Central Sulawesi province before a peace agreement was reached between Muslim and Christian leaders.
An Islamic terrorist group called Laskar Jihad threatened to eliminate Christians from the region but was held off by government troops.
Since the agreement, however, sporadic attacks – mostly against Christians – have continued, according to international Christian groups that monitor persecution, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Lawyers for the three men say provincial prosecutors delivered a letter yesterday saying the executions would take place Thursday, though one report indicated it could be Friday, the BBC reported.
Attorney General Abdul Rachman Saleh told reporters the letter said the men would be shot in 72 hours.
The execution was stayed last month by the attorney general for Central Sulawesi, Mohammad Yahya Sibe, but the official suddenly was replaced, and the order was given for the executions to proceed.
The chief of police also suddenly was replaced and sent to another department.
Normally, said ICC, the appeal for the three men should last months or even a year.
The U.S. group points out Tibo, Riwu, and Da Silva were the only men charged in the Poso conflict.
“This is a glaring injustice and hints of massive cover-up by the Indonesian government,” the group said in a statement, noting it has done its own investigation of the conflict.
“Entire Christian villages were attacked with government munitions and burned down using Indonesian government fuel trucks,” ICC said. “Christian adults and children were beheaded. The Muslim community initiated the attacks and there was every indication that local Muslim government leaders were involved. Why were no Muslims ever charged in any of the attacks?”
ICC’s president, Jeff King, said there are “so many Muslims in the Poso area with blood on their hands that the governor of Central Sulawesi, where Poso is located, recently conveyed to the community that in order to attain peace it was necessary to implement a ‘general amnesty’ for those implicated in the Poso case.”
“Strangely,” King said, “the need for amnesty is only for those who have not been charged.”
ICC is carrying out a campaign on behalf of the men, asking individuals to contact the Indonesia Embassy in the U.S., the U.K. or Canada. The group is asking for a delay in the execution and the opening of a wide-ranging investigation into the Poso attacks “so that everyone who is guilty can be charged or amnestied.”
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono denied a request for clemency last year. Several members of the U.S. Congress have written to Susilo, urging him to reconsider his decision.
A number of Indonesian human rights groups are supporting the three men, seeking clemency and exoneration.
The three men claim their convictions resulted from irregularities during their trial. They contend, for example, the judge in the case neglected to consider the testimony of 13 different witnesses – including the defendants themselves – that would have exonerated them.
A number of other witnesses – including Irwanto Hasan, who at the time was a member of the Poso Police Intelligence Division – say the men were part of a humanitarian team when they were arrested.
They came to Poso in 2000 after hearing reports a Catholic Church there had been burned, according to the British-based Christian charity Jubilee Campaign.
The men entered the conflict zone to evacuate children from a church-run school in the village of Moengko, Poso City, the group said. On the morning of May 23, 2000, a Muslim mob entered the village and set fire to the church. The defendants and the students escaped out the back door before the building burned to the ground.
A few days later, according to Hasan, Tibo and the others were recruited by the Red Group, described as a “militant Christian group.” Hasan claimed the men acted to subvert the Red Group’s leaders and protect various individuals – both Christian and Muslim – from violence.
Hasan claimed that at one point Tibo saved his life.