Indonesia face imminent execution by a firing squad after the Indonesian president denied them clemency, a religious rights group said Wednesday, December 14.
Jubilee Campaign USA (JC) told BosNewsLife that Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus Dasilva and Marinus Riwu were sentenced to death on charges of participating in Muslim-Christian clashes five years ago in the town of Poso, about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) northeast of the capital Jakarta.
An estimated 2,000 people died in the violence, until a peace deal was agreed in 2001. "The defendants, however, maintain their innocence and claim that their convictions resulted from irregularities during their trial," JC said.
"Having recently been denied clemency by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, their execution by firing squad may take place as early as the end of this year," the group added.
JC said the three men believe the judge "neglected even to consider the testimony of thirteen different witnesses that would have exonerated them." Former Poso Police Intelligence Division official Irwanto Hasan and other witnesses have reportedly said that the men were engaged in "a humanitarian exercise" at the time of their arrest.
"They had come to Poso after hearing reports that a Catholic Church there had been burned in the sectarian violence. They entered the conflict zone to evacuate children from a church-run school in the village of Moengko [part of] Poso City," JC said.
"On the morning of May 23, 2000, a Muslim mob entered the village and set fire to the church. The defendants and the students escaped out the back door; the building was burned to the ground," the rights group claimed.
The men admitted they were recruited several days later by the Red Group, a militant Christian group, but they and Hasan claim that "far from participating in the violence" they acted "to subvert the Red Group’s leaders and protect various individuals–both Christian and Muslim–from violence," JC said, citing its sources in the region.
"Hasan even claimed that at one point Tibo had saved his life." Several Indonesian human rights groups have taken up the cause of the three men, seeking clemency and exoneration. In addition several members of the US Congress have written to President Susilo, urging him to reconsider his denial of clemency. Jubilee Campaign USA is developing a case to take before the UN and said it would urge supporters to "write, e-mail or fax a letter to President Susilo regarding this gross miscarriage of justice."
Indonesian officials have not yet reacted to the latest developments. (With reports from Indonesia).