Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Poso group leader Hasanuddin goes on trial for beheadings

JAKARTA (AP): A man went on trial Wednesday on charges of beheading three Christian girls as they walked to school in the Central Sulawesi's town of Poso.

Prosecutors alleged that Hasanuddin wanted to avenge the deaths of Muslims by Christian mobs during sectarian fighting between 1999 and 2002 and left a handwritten note with the girls' heads vowing more attacks.

"We still need another 100 heads," said the note, according to the indictment read out by prosecutor Payaman. "Blood must be avenged by blood."

The attackers beheaded the three girls in October 2005 as they walked to school along an isolated jungle track leading to the town of Poso in central Sulawesi. Another girl was slashed in the head, but managed to escape.

Trials of two other suspects due to stand trial Wednesday at the Central Jakarta District Court were delayed until next week. The three men are charged under Indonesia's anti-terrorism law and could be sentenced to death if found guilty.

Prosecutors said that Hasanuddin was the ringleader of the attack and was present during it, but did not wield a machete himself. Prosecutors allege that he gave money to the other attackers to buy machetes and plastic bags to put the girls heads in. The heads were dumped close to a church and police station in the seaside town.

Hasanuddin did not speak except to say he intended to deliver a defense against the charges.

Large scale clashes between the two faiths ended in 2002 with a peace agreement, but sporadic attacks have continued.

At least 1,000 people from both faiths died during the fighting. Tensions flared anew last month after the execution of three Roman Catholic militants convicted of leading a 2000 attack on an Islamic school that killed at least 70 people.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, with 90 percent of its 220 million people professing the faith. But Central Sulawesi has a roughly equal number of Muslim and Christians.

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