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Indonesia's Aceh province OKs stoning for adulterers

The newly passed law also calls for severe prison terms for homosexuals.

September 15, 2009|Associated Press

BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA — Adulterers can be stoned to death and homosexuality is punishable by steep prison terms under a new law passed unanimously in Indonesia's devoutly Muslim province of Aceh on Monday.

Aceh's regional parliament adopted the bill despite strong objections from human rights groups and the province's deputy governor, who said the legislation needed more careful consideration because it imposed a new form of capital punishment.

The chairman of the 69-seat house asked whether the bill could be passed into law and members answered in unison: "Yes, it can." Some members of the moderate Democrat Party had voiced reservations, but none of them voted against the bill.

The law, which reinforces the province's already strict Islamic laws, is to take effect within 30 days. Its passage comes two weeks before a new assembly led by the moderate Aceh Party is to be sworn in after the defeat of conservative Muslim parties in local elections.

Aceh, where Islam first arrived in Indonesia from Saudi Arabia centuries ago, enjoys some autonomy from the central government.

A long-running Islamic insurgency in the province ended in 2005, after the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 killed more than 100,000 people there.

A version of Islamic law, or Sharia, introduced in Aceh in 2001 bans gambling and alcohol, and makes it compulsory for women to wear head scarves. Dozens of public canings have been carried out by police against those who violate the law.

The majority of Indonesia's Muslims practice a moderate form of the faith, and surveys suggest they do not support such hard-line interpretations of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

The new Indonesian law also imposes tough sentences and fines, to be paid in gold, for rape and pedophilia, but the most hotly disputed focus was on adultery. The law states that offending married couples can be punished by a minimum of 100 lashings and a maximum of stoning to death.

It also imposes severe prison terms for other behavior considered morally unacceptable, including homosexuality, which will be punishable by public lashings and more than eight years in prison.

Aceh Vice Gov. Muhammad Nazar said that even though his office opposed the clause on stoning to death, it had no legal power to block the legislation.

"Whatever law is passed we have to enforce it," he said.

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