To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
BY ANTO AKKARARegister Correspondent
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Church officials were relieved
when the Indonesian government at the last minute indefinitely postponed the
execution of three Catholics, honoring an appeal by Pope Benedict XVI.
60, Dominggus da Silva, 39,
and Marinus Riwu, 48, were
due to face a firing squad Aug. 12. But the execution was stayed just hours
ahead of the deadline as a result of an appeal to Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono, the
president of Indonesia,
the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world.
Silva and Riwu were convicted in 2001 for the murder
of 200 Muslims in a spree from May to June 2000 in Poso
on Central Sulawesi Island. And even though the executions
have been put off indefinitely, Church officials are far from relaxed.
“We cannot just relax. Anything is
possible here,” Bishop Ignatius Suharyo, secretary
general of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, told the Register in a Sept. 7
Asked how long the stay of
execution would continue, Bishop Suharyo, who heads
the Semarang Diocese said: “There is no time limit.
They could be executed anytime. We are really worried.”
To illustrate his point, Bishop Suharyo also admitted there are already “growing demands
from a section that the Catholics should be executed along with the Bali convicts.”
He was referring to three Muslims,
Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, Mukhlas bin Nurhasyim and Imam Samudra, who have been sentenced to death for the October
12, 2002 bombings in Bali that killed more
than 200 people, mostly Western tourists.
“The Church is opposed to the
death penalty, and there are more than 60 people already facing a death
sentence here,” the bishop said. “So, we are trying to lobby against the death
penalty itself in a situation like this.”
With some Islamic groups openly
opposing any clemency for the condemned Catholics, the Church, as well as some
human rights activists in Indonesia, has said that a campaign to outlaw the
death penalty altogether can save not only the lives of those on death row but
of many others similarly condemned in the future.
Diametrically opposed to that
stance is the head of Indonesia’s
Jimly Ashiddiqie, who has
publicly stated that the plans to execute the Catholics should not be made
public to prevent any further delays.
The three Muslims convicted of
murder have authorized their lawyers appeal to Indonesia’s Supreme Court to review
their cases prior to the execution that was scheduled for Aug. 22. This
last-minute change of heart by the Bali trio
was heartening to those opposed to the death penalty, such as the Church.
The Church is hoping to be part of
a collaboration with secular action groups to
strengthen and spread awareness on the campaign against the death penalty. This
is in addition to Catholic students staging demonstrations in different parts
of the Indonesian archipelago.
Human rights groups allege that
the three Catholics were convicted in a highly biased trial with pressure from
Islamic militants influencing the court verdict. They also point out that the
death sentence against minority Catholics was the result of selective
However, Muslim groups are in no
mood to let the Catholics get away with murder. More than 4,000 demonstrators
took to the streets in Poso Sept. 4, shutting down
the city’s schools, businesses and public transit, demanding the government
carry out the sentence against the three “as required by law.”
Meanwhile, a new police chief has
been installed in Central Sulawesi.
Badrootin Haiti, former police superintendent
in Banten, has replaced Brig. Gen. Oegroseno, who played a key role in the stay of execution
of Tibo, da Silva and Riwu.
In fact, Oegroseno’s
transfer on Aug. 31 is widely seen as a setback for those campaigning for
reopening the charge against the three.
Human rights activists and the
legal team representing the Catholic prisoners have strongly protested the
decision, pointing out that the transfer has silenced one of the most
authoritative voices seeking the truth about the 1999-2000 Christian-Muslim
clashes in Poso.
Oegroseno has been a strong believer in the
need to suspend the execution, and his removal as police chief, they point out,
was politically motivated, showing that the government is bent on carrying out
the death sentence.
“The enigma of who was responsible
for what happened in Poso must be solved,” said Oegroseno at a press conference after his transfer was
announced. “Leaders of the Christian and Muslim communities must have the
courage to tell the truth.”
The transfer has evoked strong
protests even in Indonesia’s
with attorneys representing the three condemned men staging a march to the
police headquarters to protest the “move to silence a good police officer
willing to take a critical stance.”
“Indonesia mourns; the voice of
truth has been banned,” read one of the banners carried in the march. “After
this decision (to remove Oegroseno), we are very
worried not only about the three prisoners’ fate but also about what could
happen to interfaith peace and harmony in Central Sulawesi
for which he worked so hard during his tenure in office,” said Norbert Bethan, a member of the three prisoners’ legal team.
told the Register that “our friends in Jakarta
are doing their best to lobby with the government on this (abolition of the
death penalty). We hope and pray that this campaign succeeds.”
is based in New Delhi, India.