- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

PALU, Indonesia — Christians angered by the executions yesterday of three Roman Catholic militants in the world’s most populous Muslim country torched cars and government buildings, looted shops and attacked a jail, freeing hundreds of inmates.

The men faced a firing squad at 1:45 a.m. in Palu for a massacre at an Islamic school six years ago. The executions took place despite an appeal by Pope Benedict XVI to spare the men.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla appealed for calm following yesterday’s sectarian violence, which left at least five persons injured. He said the executions had nothing to do with religion.

“It’s a matter of the law. These killings were carried out according to our legal process,” he told reporters in the capital, Jakarta.

Fabianus Tibo, 60, Marinus Riwu, 48, and Dominggus da Silva, 42, were convicted of leading a Christian militia that carried out a series of attacks in May 2000 — including a machete and gun assault on an Islamic school that left at least 70 persons dead.

The attack on the school was one of the worst incidents during sectarian violence that swept Sulawesi province from 1998 to 2002. At least 1,000 persons from both faiths were killed.

Only a few Muslims were ever punished for their part in the unrest, and none was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison.

Although the government insists Tibo and his associates were given a fair trial, legal analysts and human rights workers noted that crowds of Muslim hard-liners gathered at the court during the hearings, likely intimidating judges, attorneys and witnesses.

“The men’s lawyers received death threats, including a bomb planted at one lawyer’s house, and demonstrators armed with stones outside the courthouse demanded that the three be sentenced to death,” said Isabelle Cartron of London-based Amnesty International.

Yesterday’s violence took place on Sulawesi and the nearby islands of Flores and Timor, which are dominated by Christians. Although Christians make up less than 10 percent of the country’s population, they are roughly half the population in the country’s east.

Palu, the capital of Sulawesi province, was largely calm. But violence raged in the Sulawesi villages of Tentena and Lage, where hundreds of Christians went on a rampage, torching cars and police posts after learning of the executions.

On the island of Flores, the condemned men’s birthplace in East Nusatenggara province, machete-wielding youths terrorized residents and tore apart the local parliament building. Thousands also rallied to protest the executions.

On West Timor, more than 200 inmates escaped after mobs assaulted a jail in the town of Atambua, sending guards fleeing into the jungle. By midday only 20 prisoners had been recaptured, police said.

The bodies of Tibo and Riwu were placed on police helicopters and flown to their village of Beteleme in Sulawesi’s Morowalai district for burial. Da Silva was buried in Palu, but his supporters returned to the graveyard late yesterday to dig up his body, saying they wanted to substitute his government-issued clothing and coffin with their own.

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