Sunday, September 24, 2006

Calm prevails after executions

Government building burnt in Maumere

Palu (ANTARA News) - Conditions were calmer and under control after Indonesian government deployed thousands of security forces to guard public areas Saturday in Central Sulawesi province. Angry mobs had rioted Friday in Christian areas of Indonesia after the government carried out early-morning executions of three Christian men convicted of massacring Muslims during sectarian violence six years ago. In East Nusa Tenggara province, the condemned men's birthplace, mobs attacked offices and houses, torched a car and destroyed the main gate to a local prison in the town Atambua, allowing hundreds of inmates to escape. "Situation are now calmer, no more riots or mobs on the streets," provincial police spokesman Major Marten Raja told Deutsche Presse-Agentur DPA, by telephone from Kupang, the provincial capital. Only one person was injured in Friday's rights, he said. "There were 205 inmates who escaped, but until today, 22 have recaptured," Raja said.
A police firing squad in Palu, capital of Central Sulawesi province, executed the three men, who were convicted and sentenced to death in 2001 despite international appeals for clemency. The condemned Christians - Fabianus Tibo, 60, Marianus Riwu, 48, and Domingus da Silva, 42 - were executed around 1:50 am at an undisclosed location, the earliest moment that their sentences of capital punishment could be carried out. The bodies of Tibo and Riwu were placed on police helicopters and flown back for burial to their village of Beteleme in Central Sulawesi's Morowalai district. Da Silva was buried overnight in Palu, though family members accompanied by Catholic priest dug up his grave Friday night to let the deceased have a "proper" Roman Catholic burial.
The men had been found guilty of leading a Christian militia that launched a series of attacks on Muslims in May 2000 in Poso district,including a gun-and-machete assault in which at least 70 people taking refugee in an Islamic school were killed. The massacre was one of the bloodiest incidents of sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims that swept through previously harmonious Central Sulawesi from 1998 to 2002, leaving more than 1,000 people from both communities dead and tens of thousands homeless. The convicted men maintained their innocence. They said that prosecutors refused to investigate 16 people including military, intelligence and government officials, implicated by one of the defendants as the masterminds of the conflict. Defence lawyers said that the death sentences were unfair because numerous Muslims convicted of religious violence, including scores of murders, only received prison sentences.
The Jakarta government had postponed the Poso executions once, after Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to Yudhoyono - though authorities insisted the delay was for "technical reasons." The European Union released a statement expressing "disappointment" and called on the Jakarta government to halt future planned executions.
More than 80 per cent of Indonesia's 220 million people are Muslim, but the Christian and Muslim populations in Central Sulawesi are roughly equal. Sporadic bombings and killings in the region, about 1,650 kilometres northeast of Jakarta, have continued since Muslim and Christian leaders signed a peace accord in late 2001.

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