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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Death sentences for Indonesian violence
Panicking refugees board army truck
Thousands fled their homes as violence spread
By Richard Galpin in Jakarta

A court on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has sentenced three Christian men to death for masterminding a series of attacks on the Muslim community in the central district of Poso last year.

It is estimated at least 200 people were killed in the violence.

The court heard how the three men had trained and led a group of 700 Christian fighters.

Poster of President Abdurrahman Wahid
Many hoped President Wahid could end sectarian strife
In May last year they carried out a series of premeditated attacks on Muslims in Poso town and several outlying districts, the court heard.

They killed their victims using home-made guns and machetes.

Many had their throats cut, some were decapitated.

At least 40 people were massacred inside a mosque.

Tens of thousands of people fled as their homes were burnt down and are still living in camps a year later.

Violent heritage

Poso district has a history of communal violence dating back to 1998.

What originally began as a drunken brawl between gangs of youths soon developed into religious conflict with a series of attacks and counter-attacks.

It is widely believed to have been exploited by local political leaders seeking to gain control of the region.

Many local Muslims are clearly not satisfied with the trial's outcome.

A group of men stoned the court, demanding that two government officials also be put on trial.

They say they helped mastermind the attacks.

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See also:

27 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Moluccan Christians stage embassy protest
27 Feb 01 | Media reports
Indonesia press anger over Borneo
06 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Wahid's many problems
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