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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Sulawesi militants face execution
Family members of Fabianus Tibo are checked by an Indonesian police officer
Family members visited the men amid tight security
Three Indonesian Christian militants facing execution for attacks against Muslims in 2000 have been visited by relatives for probably the last time.

Lawyers for Fabianus Tibo, Marianus Riwu and Dominggus Silva said earlier this week the men would face the firing squad in Central Sulawesi on Thursday.

But a priest who also visited the trio said the date was set for early Friday.

Security is tight in the religiously divided province amid fears the executions will spark renewed violence.

The priest, Reverend Jimmy Tumbelaka, said after meeting the three men at their prison in Palu: "They are mentally ready to face the firing squad".

VIOLENT PAST
Muslim gang members carry makeshift rifles as Christian homes burn in sectarian violence-wracked Poso, December 2001
Previously known as Celebes, Sulawesi is Indonesia's fourth largest island
80% of residents are Muslim, while 17% are Christian
A December 1998 brawl in Poso led to months of religious violence in which hundreds died

Mr Tibo's son Robert said he did not think there was anything more they could do for the men. "I just came today for my father. I hope the last prayers will help him."

Some 4,000 extra troops have already been deployed in Central Sulawesi, and reinforcements are being drafted in as tensions rise ahead of the executions.

Muslim groups have called on the government to carry out the executions, while Indonesia's Christians have been protesting against them.

The three men were convicted of leading attacks on the Muslim community in the district of Poso in 2001 that left at least 200 people dead - including one attack on an Islamic school that killed at least 70 people.

Map of Indonesia

The men - who deny the charges - were due to be executed last month, but were given a temporary reprieve.

Pleas for clemency have been made by Pope Benedict XVI and others around the world, some of whom fear the case has become linked to that of three Muslim militants who are also on death row for their part in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed more than 200 people.

Rights groups have questioned the fairness of the three Christians' trial, saying few others have been convicted over the violence that rocked Central Sulawesi from 1998 to 2001.

The violence, sparked by a brawl between Muslim and Christian gangs in 1998, led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people.

Although a government-brokered truce has largely held since then, there have been sporadic attacks - including the beheading of three Christian schoolgirls by masked men last October.




SEE ALSO
Indonesia executions put on hold
11 Aug 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Three Indonesian girls beheaded
29 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Gunmen attack Indonesian church
19 Jul 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Sulawesi alert over fresh violence
17 Nov 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Death sentences for Indonesian violence
05 Apr 01 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia flashpoints: Sulawesi
28 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific

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