Church in Indonesia Campaigns for Abolition of Death Penalty
BY ANTO AKKARA
September 24-30, 2006 Issue | Posted 9/25/06 at 9:00 AM
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
Silva and Riwu were convicted in 2001 for the murder
of 200 Muslims in a spree from May to June 2000 in Poso
“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 telephone interview.
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
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
“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
The three Muslims convicted of
murder have authorized their lawyers appeal to
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 prosecution.
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
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
told the Register that “our friends in
is based in
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