In the first such punishments meted out under expanded Islamic bylaws, a Muslim couple who committed adultery and a non-Muslim who sold liquor were caned dozens of times on Tuesday in Indonesia’s Aceh province.
The couple and a 60-year-old Christian woman, who had sold alcoholic beverages in the province where alcohol is banned, were among five people caned in front of local officials and a crowd of more than 1,000 spectators in Takengon, central Aceh, after being found guilty of violating Sharia bylaws known as Qanun Jinayat.
Convicted of having an affair, the couple each suffered 100 lashes – an unprecedented punishment by caning – since Aceh expanded the bylaws in October to include corporal punishment for acts related to adultery.
The Christian woman was lashed 28 times after being held in custody for 47 days, officials said.
When the regional House of Representatives voted to broaden the Qanun Jinayat six months ago, it also paved the way for non-Muslims to be exposed to possible punishments under Sharia law in Aceh, the only province in Indonesia that enforces the Islamic code.
Under the expanded laws, non-Muslims, including Indonesian and foreign tourists, can be prosecuted if caught committing adultery, rape and homosexual acts, among other violations of Sharia, and if Indonesia’s criminal code (KUHP) does not cover the alleged crime.
The updated bylaws set the punishment at 100 lashes for adulterers and homosexuals and 200 lashes for rapists of children.
Sharia law, which has been in force in Aceh since 2001, is so strict that a non-married couple cannot even be alone and in “close proximity” of each other. This crime is known as khalwat, and a man and woman each was caned three times on Tuesday after being convicted of this violation.
The canings of the five defendants took place outside the Arts and Sports Building in Takengon.
The town’s chief of Sharia police, whose name is Muslim, identified the couple that had committed adultery by the initials U.M.R. and F.T.M. The former is 42 years old and the latter is 30, and a Sharia court in Takengon had convicted them of adultery on March 11, Muslim told BenarNews.
He said a team of 10 officers were assigned to take turns lashing the five convicts.
Each officer gave 10 lashes to each of the two adulterers, and a medical team checked the man and woman after every 20 lashes of the cane.
According to eyewitnesses, some of the spectators yelled for the officers to whip the adulterers harder.
“The woman did not faint. She endured the lashes,” Muslim told Benar.
Convicted for adultery
Lili Suparli, who heads the intelligence division in the Takengon prosecutor’s office, said the canings occurred because neither of the two adulterers appealed their convictions.
“In the trial, both confessed, thus allowing the attorney to prosecute them without any witnesses,” Lili said.
Neither defendant was represented by an attorney at trial. Since caning was approved in Aceh in 2005, most defendants go to trial without legal representation.
U.M.R. and F.T.M. were arrested by civilians in a village in Central Aceh in January, then handed over to the local police for processing.
“They were captured when doing the misdeed. U.M.R. was a village head and F.T.M. is a widow,” Muslim said, adding that U.M.R. had seen been removed from office.
‘We reduced the penalty’
In the case of the Christian identified by the initials R.S., she was arrested at the end of last year on suspicion of selling liquor.
The Sharia court that convicted the woman decided to follow the prosecutor’s charge, which called for 30 lashes.
“We reduced the penalty to be 28 lashes, because she has been imprisoned for almost two months – equal to two lashes,” Lili said.
Lili confirmed that the number of Sharia violations in Aceh is increasing, especially cases involving Khalwat.