The city of Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, has been a focus of sectarian violence since the end of 1998. Between 1999 and 2002, 1,000 people were killed, in part of a wider conflict - the Moluccan War - which killed 9,000 people in the same period. Most of the violence then was mounted by Islamic groups, particularly Laskar Jihad.
SInce the conflict officially came to a close, the killings have continued. For the most part, the victims have been Christians. The conflict has flared up again recently.
On October 29 last year, four schoolgirls were walking to school in a village in Poso district, when they were attacked by men wearing black with faces covered. The girls were hacked with machetes, and Ida Yarni Sambue (15), Theresia Morangke (15), and Alfita Poliwo (19) - were decapitated. The girl who survived, Noviana Malewa, had been hacked in the face and is scarred for life.
On May 5, five Muslims were arrested on Sulawesi. These individuals are Apriyantono (aka Irwanto Irano, aka Irwan), Lilik Purwanto (aka Arman, aka Haris), Jendra, (aka Rahmat, aka Asrudin), Nano Maryono and Abdul Muis. Shortly after, following further arrests, seven people confessed to taking part in the beheadings.
Today, it is announced by Associated Press via the International Herald Tribune and Nine MSN.com.au that three Muslims have been charged with the murders of the Christian schoolgirls, according to the Attorney-General`s Office.
These are Lilik Purnomo, Irwanto Irano and a man named Hasanuddin. According to Muanas, a lawyer from their defense team, "Hasanuddin is also accused as the planner or motivator, and faces a maximum penalty of death."
According to the Jakarta Post and AKI, police have released photokit pictures of eight Muslims who are among 29 currently wanted for their involvement in attacks against Christians at Poso. Police announced that 15 other men have already been arrested on October 31.
Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Muhammad Kilat said on Thursday: "We urge those already identified by the police as suspects to surrender. We also ask for the help of the community and religious figures in Poso and Palu to help the police."
He said that 26 of the 29 wanted individuals were from the Tanah Runtuh Muslim militant group based in Gebang Rejo village and the rest were from the Kayamanya group in Kayamanya village in Poso. Mujahidin Kayamanya is known to have links to KOMPAK (Komite Aksi Penanggulangan Akibat Krisis - Action Committee for Crisis Response - an Islamic "charity" which was founded by the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Council (Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia or DDII), which funded militants in the Moluccas (Malaku) and Poso.
Ustadz Jamaluddin Hadi, a Muslim leader, claimed that police were only releasing the names of suspects to draw attention away from their involvement in a raid on the Alamanah Pesantaren (Islamic boarding school) which took place on October 22. One Muslim man was shot dead.
There is some dispute about Hadi`s claims. The police had said that they had been attacked while carrying out a raid, by a group using automatic weapons, pipe-bombs and stones. They had shot one of the Muslims. One policeman had been injured in the clash.
The school is run by Adnan Arsal, who led a militant Muslim faction called the Komite Perjuangan Muslim Poso (KPMP or Committee for the Islamic Struggle in Poso) during the Muslim?Christian conflict of 1999-2002. Arsal had claimed that "The police came, scared the children who ran away in panic. There were two deaths". The vice-president of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla, had suggested last year that Adnan Arsal had been involved with the beheading of the three Christian schoolgirls.
In December 2001, Jusuf Kalla had brokered the Malino Accord, a peace treaty between various factions. Both Ustadz Jamaluddin Hadi and Adnan Arsal had signed this agreement, though the violence did not stop on Sulawesi.
Jamaluddin said of the police list: "The people whose names were announced are already being legally processed so why are their names being mentioned again?"
Adj. Sr. Comr. Muhammad Kilat said that six of the 26 police officers who had taken part in the raid at Gebang Rejo village already been questioned. He confirmed that police would be questioning several residents of Gebang Rejo after a reconstruction of the incident had taken place. He said that a reconstruction had been necessary because of "suspicious" events concerning the incident.
Jusuf Kalla on Thursday arranged a meeting between Muslim representatives in Palu (administrative capital of Central Sulawesi) on Sunday with Governor Banjela Paliuju, and again on Thursday (November 2) with Brig. Gen. Badrodin Haiti. Haiti is the Central Sulawesi police chief. At the second meeting, Haiti claimed that violent incidents could be prevented if residents did not attack police.
Haiti said of the October 22 raid: "The officers were cornered after the residents hit electricity poles in a signal to hundreds of local people to attack them."
His statement was contradicted by Harun Nyak Itam Abu, who had been one of the police team on the raid. He said that the police fired first and then asked questions. This had happened after a tense standoff between the residents of the Alamanah seminary and police.
According to Antara News, the meetings on Sunday and Thursday brokered by Jusuf Kalla had produced a government agreement to set up an investigation into the incident at Gebang Rejo village. The team to head this would also look at earlier incidents of crimes in Poso.
Kalla and Adnan Arsal said that the proposed team would be under the supervision of the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs. It would comprise local officials and leaders. Adnan suggested that the reconstruction team should involve the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI).
This group created massive religious conflict in Indonesia after it declared controversial fatwas last year. During its Seventh National Conference in Jakarta (July 26-27 2005) it banned marriages between faiths unless Muslims were the lead (male) partner, and outlawed secularism, pluralism and liberal forms of Islam. It also declared the Ahmadiyya (Ahmadiyah) sect of Islam to be heretical.
Following the MUI fatwa, in September last year in Sudkadana, West Java, a mob of 1,000 people consequently attacked an Ahmadiyyah community, damaging 70 houses and also six mosques. In February, the Ahmadiyah on Lombok, in Nusa Tenggara Barat were attacked, with their homes burned, and 100 took refuge on the adjacent island of Bali. There are 20,000 members of this sect of Islam in Indonesia, and in March, the religious affairs minister, Maftuh Basyuni, joined the attacks on this community by announcing that they should stop calling themselves "Muslim".
For the MUI to be even remotely involved with any investigations into the bloody conflict on Poso, where Christians have been the main victims, would be disastrous, and will only add to the resentments of the Christian community.
Dien Syamsuddin, who is head of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest popular "moderate" Muslim group in Indonesia, has asked the government to settle the conflict in Central Sulawesi, states Antara News. He said: "In law enforcement, religious sensitivity, including respect of religious institutions should be taken into account."
Dyamsuddin is also deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI). He praised the involvement of the vice president in talks: "Without Kalla`s participation and involvement in the solution of the case, I am afraid it would even get worse."
The situation on Poso is currently highly sensitive, following the execution of three Christians on September 20. Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu were shot by firing squad at Palu airport after being convicted in April 2001 of their alleged involvement with violence against Muslims in Poso in May 2000.
The trial was condemned by Amnesty International and the Jubilee Campaign, and requests for clemency and a stay of execution, made by Pope Benedict XVI, US senators, EU officials and others were ignored by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Following the execution, there were riots in Poso and also in East Nuga Tenggara province, where the three men came from. In Poso, two Muslims were killed by protesters.
The current tension in the region is directly related to the issue of the Christians` execution. Two Christians in Poso were killed by bomb attacks in early September, less than a fortnight before the executions took place.
Antara News reports that the family of Fabianus Tibo have now decided to take their case to the International Court of Justice. They are claiming that the method of execution as laid down in Indonesia`s Penal Code, Law No 2/1964, had been breached. An autopsy had found five bullet wounds in his body, and other injuries which they state prove the law had been violated. The case is being brought by PADMA, a non government organisation which had previously given legal aid to the three executed men.
Tibo and the two others who were shot had consistently maintained their innocence, and the trial at which they received their death sentences was a travesty of normal measures of justice. Evidence was suppressed, and a mob of Muslims baying for their deaths packed the courthouse and protested outside the building. It has been suggested that the judges gave the three men their death sentences from fear of the mob.