.- Three Indonesian Catholic men were executed in Indonesia this morning. They had been convicted for inciting violence, which killed about 200 Muslims, in 2000.
Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marianus Riwu were executed by firing squad after being handcuffed and tied to chairs at an undisclosed location. According to Fr. Jimmy Tumbelaka, Da Silva and Tibo allowed themselves to be blindfolded, but Riwu refused.
The three men’s lawyer, Roy Rening, said he refused to be present at the deaths to protest a rejection by the state of their last demands, including that their bodies be returned to their families in their home towns or laid in wake at Palu's main Catholic church, reported Australia’s Daily Telegraph. On Thursday, the men had met for the last time with their relatives, their priest and their lawyer.
Father Tumbelaka said the government’s denial of the men’s last request that their bodies be taken to the church for a requiem Mass led by Sacred Heart Bishop Josephus Suwatan of Manado, was deplorable.
"That is really inhuman. It is against human rights," he said. But "we will hold a requiem Mass" led by the bishop "even without their bodies," he added.
Fr. Tumbeleka, who ministered to the three men while they were in prison, said he was concerned that a refusal to hand over the bodies could "trigger more anger from the family and others" in the province, where Muslims and Christians live in roughly equal numbers.
Typically, authorities do turn bodies over to families after executions, following a routine autopsy.
While no protests had been reported in Palu, where police presence had been tightened, UCAN reported that an estimated 9,000 people took to the streets in mostly Catholic Atambuat 8 a.m. to protest the execution. The mob burned the prosecutor's and district court offices, and stoned and damaged 50 other sites including shops, houses, a market, government offices and a prison. About 200 prisoners escaped as a result.
Divine Word Bishop Anton Pain Ratu of Atambua and several Catholic priests tried unsuccessfully to divert the mob to Immaculate Conception Cathedral in a bid to calm the rioters. They were able, however, to lead the mob to the town square. There, in the presence of security officers, the prelate urged the mob not to commit acts of anarchy.
The case of the three poor farmers drew international concern from rights activists, who criticized the fairness of their trial and saw the men as scapegoats. Few others were convicted over the violence, they observed.
Christian leaders had urged their faithful to stay calm and refrain from any violence ahead of the executions, with widespread prayer services for the men being held.
The men’s execution was initially scheduled last month but authorities granted a last-minute reprieve, shortly after Pope Benedict XVI issued a plea for clemency, though a link was denied.
A spokesman for Pope Benedict XVI said the executions were a "defeat for humanity".
"It is very sad and painful news. Every time capital punishment is used is a defeat for humanity," said Federico Lombardi.