Christians on Death Row for Killing Muslims Seek Pardon in Indonesia

Three Christians on death row for killing Muslims during religious clashes in eastern Indonesia six years ago have repeated a request for a presidential pardon, lawyers and government officials said Monday.

"We have formally submitted an appeal for clemency ... because in our view, they did not get a fair trial," said Roy Rening, the men's lawyer.

The three men — Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva — are accused of instigating attacks on Sulawesi island in 2000, including a massacre at a Muslim boarding school in the town of Poso that left nearly 200 students dead.

They were scheduled to go before a firing squad earlier this month but received a last-minute stay of execution hours after Pope Benedict XVI appealed to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to spare their lives.

Indonesia's attorney general insists the executions will go ahead, but analysts say the timing appears to be linked to that of three Muslim militants awaiting death for the 2002 Bali bombings that left 202 people dead.

Rening said he had not been able to meet with his clients for three weeks but submitted a request for a pardon with Yudhoyono on their behalf. The president turned down what was considered to be a final appeal last year, and it was unlikely a second plea would be accepted.

The president's spokesman said, however, he had received it and would forward it for processing.

"The trials were full of fabrications," Rening told reporters while visiting the Palu prison, where the three Christians were being held in isolation. Family members also have been unable to meet them.

Indonesia has the world's largest population of Muslims, some 190 million, but a large percentage of central Sulawesi's population is Christian.

Fierce battles between members of the two faiths in 2000 and 2001 left some 1,000 people from both communities dead, mostly in Poso, but few people have been brought to justice from either side.

Three Muslim militants had also been scheduled to be killed earlier this month for their roles in the 2002 Bali bombings, but their executions were delayed after lawyers said they were filing an appeal.

Some analysts say the government of this predominantly Muslim nation is wavering because it does not want to risk public anger by executing the Christians before the Bali bombers — Amrozi Nurhasyim, Ali Gufron and Imam Samudra.

"People were asking, 'Why Amrozi first, and not Tibo?'," said Mohammad Mahendratta, an attorney for the Muslim militants.

"For me, it is a simple matter: just follow the death row queue," he said. "Tibo and his friends got convicted first, and they should be executed first."