Three Christians in Indonesia convicted of killing Muslims six years ago are scheduled to be executed at an undisclosed time and location on Thursday despite international protest that the men are innocent and serve as scapegoats.
"The Indonesian government is sacrificing true justice to provide judicial ‘balance’ by executing these three Christians to appease Muslims who are upset that three Islamic terrorist are also to be executed for their part in the Bali bombings," said Jeremy Sewall, policy analyst for International Christian Concern, in a released statement. "This is not justice. This is deception, cover-up, and appeasement."
The three men – Fabianus Tibo, Marianus Riwu, and Dominggus Da Silva – have been convicted of leading attacks on Muslims in May 2000 in Sulawesi that included the attack on an Islamic school where at least 70 people died. However, the accused men deny being the mastermind behind the deadly attacks in Poso six years ago.
"Tibo and his friends continue to reject their executions because they said they are not the perpetrators of the Posos unrest," said his lawyer Roy Rening, according to AFP.
The three men are poor, uneducated farmers who were originally convicted in 2001 for leading a Christian militia. They were sentenced to face a firing squad last month but their execution was halted after an appeal from Pope Benedict XVI and demonstrations by thousands of Indonesians.
The Christian-Muslim conflicts in Central Sulawesi, which started in 1998 and continued until 2003, left more than 1,000 people dead – roughly an equal number from both faiths. However, few others have been convicted and no persons other than the three Christian men were given death sentences.
"Why were no Muslims ever charged in any of the attacks?" questioned ICC in a report this week.
"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," said Jeff King, president of the Washington-D.C.-based human rights group. "Religious and cultural leaders of the Poso community have also repeatedly held meetings in order to achieve a ‘General Amnesty.’ Strangely, the need for amnesty is only for those who have not been charged."
Amnesty International has also questioned the fairness of the trial.
If Thursday’s scheduled executions are to take place, they will be the first this year in Indonesia.
Three Islamic militants have also been sentenced to death for their part in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people. Some have said the Christian men serve as scapegoats and appeasement to Indonesia’s Muslim population ahead of the Islamic militants’ execution.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country with nearly 90 percent of the country’s people calling themselves Muslim.
Last fall, another Christian-Muslim incident gained international attention when three Indonesian Christian schoolgirls, aged 15-17, were beheaded by Islamic militants in Poso. The girls’ heads were wrapped in plastic bags and one was left on the stops of a church in a nearby village and two near a police station. A fourth girl had survived but received serious injuries to her face and neck. The bags contained a note stating, "we will murder 100 more Christian teenagers and their heads will be presented as presents," according to Open Doors USA.
Moreover, forced closures of churches and attacks on Christian villages have been documented. In recent weeks, there has been sporadic attacks in Poso, mainly targeting Christians, according Reuters.