The trial of three Islamists began on November 8 in Jakarta, with the men standing accused of murdering three Christian schoolgirls in Poso, Central Sulawesi province, on October 29, 2005. The court was told that the ringleader said the beheading was as an action of "Muslim charity".
Ida Yarni Sambue (15), Theresia Morangke (15), and Alfita Poliwo (19) - were decapitated, and their companion, Noviana Malewa, was hacked in the face with a machete, but survived. The killings of the three schoolgirls, whose heads were placed in plastic bags and left near a church in their village, signaled a resurgence of sectarian conflict in the province of Central Sulawesi. Between the end of 1998 and 2002, the region had been subject to an intense conflict in which Muslims attacked Christians, and vice versa, in which 1,000 people died. The conflict in Sulawesi was part of a larger conflict, the Moluccan War, led by militant Islamist groups such as Laskar Jihad. This "war" killed 9,000 people over the same period.
On May 5 this year, five Muslims were arrested on Sulawesi. These included two of those who are now standing trial - Apriyantono (aka Irwanto Irano, aka Irwan) and Lilik Purwanto (aka Arman, aka Haris). Shortly after these arrests, seven individuals confessed to police that they been involved in the attack upon the Christian schoolgirls.
The trial of these men, and the alleged ringleader, is taking place in Jakarta as it is felt that a trial in Poso would only inflame sectarian unrest. Already Poso is in a state of tension after three Christians were recently executed for their alleged involvement with the conflict on Poso. Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu were shot by firing squad at Palu airport on September 20. This event triggered rioting in which two Muslims were killed, even though in the weeks leading up to their execution, Christians had been subjected to attacks, with two civilians killed by bombs.
On October 16 a protestant priest, Reverend Irianto Kongkoli, was killed in Palu, capital of Central Sulawesi province. He had actively campaigned for the three executed Christians to have their lives spared.
The leader of the three men currently on trial in Jakarta is 34-year old Hasanuddin, (aka Hasan, aka Slamet Raharjo), a trader from Java, who is accused of having "planned and/or mobilised others to conduct crimes of terrorism by intentionally using violence."
At the opening of the trial, the state prosecutor Payaman claimed that Hasanuddin had carried out the planning of the attack upon the four schoolgirls with six other individuals. Two of these were Irwanto Irano and Lilik Purwanto, while the four others are still fugitives. Hasanuddin, Irwanto Irano and Lilik Purwanto are being tried separately.
Payaman said that Hasanuddin had said of the killing of the girls that "the aim of this activity is to seek justice for our brothers and sisters who have been sadistically and inhumanly slaughtered."
The prosecutor said: "The defendant planned or provoked others to commit violent acts aimed to incite terror."
Hasanuddin had undergone training at a Muslim militant camp in the southern Philippines. This is probably the Hudaybiyah camp, which was run by the Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah, in conjunction with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Hasanuddin did not speak when the trial started, other than to say that he would deliver a defense against the charges.
The Central Jakarta District Court was told that when the schoolgirls' severed heads were placed in their village, a note accompanied them. This read: "Wanted: 100 more Christian heads, teenaged or adult, male or female; blood shall be answered with blood, soul with soul, head with head."
When Hasanuddin came back from his time spent in the camp at Mindanao in the southern Philippines, he had heard tales that MILF often staged bombings to coincide with Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival which f