Herman Jumat Masan was sentenced to death on Tuesday
Indonesia’s Supreme Court sentenced a former priest to death on Tuesday for killing his lover – a former nun – and their two children more than a decade ago in East Nusa Tenggara province.
Herman Jumat Masan, a former priest in Maumere on Flores Island, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a district court in August. But his November appeal against the verdict ended yesterday with the Supreme Court raising the sentence to execution, which it said was in accordance with Indonesian law.
“We see that he tried to conceal his crime so that people wouldn’t know about the deaths,” Supreme Court Judge Gayus Lumbuun said in an interview on Wednesday. “We hope it will have a deterrent effect so that people won’t so easily plan to end other peoples’ lives.”
The murders marked a violent end to a relationship between Masan and his victim Yosephine Kerodok Payong, known as Mery Grace, which started after she left the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit in 1997.
Two years later, Grace gave birth to their first child which Masan strangled to cover up their continuing affair.
After she again became pregnant in 2002, Grace suffered heavy bleeding during birth and both she and the baby newborn died, with Masan failing to do anything to save them.
Masan buried their bodies in the compound of a school belonging to St Peter Major Seminary, where he worked, to conceal his crimes.
In 2008, he left the priesthood and moved to work in East Kalimantan, the eastern region of Borneo.
He surrendered to police after the bodies of Grace and her two children were discovered a year ago, later confessing to the death of the first child.
After waiting nearly a decade for justice, the victims’ family welcomed the Supreme Court’s verdict on Tuesday even though it contravened the Catholic code against the death penalty.
“The decision is based on the criminal code,” said Grace’s uncle Agustinus Payong Dosi. “If he doesn’t accept it, he can file for a judicial review or ask for a pardon from the president.”
Masan’s lawyer, Marianus Renaldy Laka, said he was yet to meet with his client to discuss a next move.
Meanwhile, Father Paul Rahmat, director of VIVAT International Indoensia, a rights advocate of Divine World Mission, reiterated its strong opposition to the death penalty which the organization expressed in a letter to the Supreme Court before the district court verdict last year.
“Only God can take away someone’s life,” he said. “ If he is sentenced to life imprisonment, we support it.”