Officials and human rights activists in Indonesia’s Aceh province criticized a group of residents who threw sewage on a couple they accused of engaging in an extramarital affair.
The couple were eating at a relative’s house in Langsa, in eastern Aceh, on Saturday when a mob of locals stormed in, according to media accounts.
“There’s no legal basis for members of the public to carry out such a vigilante act,” the head of the Aceh Sharia Office, EMK Alidar, told BenarNews.
The woman argued and showed the vigilantes a document stating that the couple had been wed by a Muslim cleric in an unregistered marriage known as nikah siri.
“They did not believe it. They pulled us out and hit us,” she was quoted as saying by local media.
After a negotiation with village elders, the man agreed to donate a goat to the village because the couple were deemed to have soiled its reputation.
“We were about to hand over the goat, but there are those who demanded a cow and some suggested that we be showered with sewage. We were very scared and then we had sewage poured on us,” she said.
A video circulating on social media showed men pouring bucket after bucket of wastewater on a shirtless man and a woman clad in a green hijab.
“It was just a spontenous act by the locals, which should not have been done because it’s akin to taking the law into their own hands. They should have lodged a report with Wilayatul Hisbah [Sharia police] if they suspect something,” Alidar said.
Not the first time
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia where Sharia law is in effect. In April, officials agreed to move public canings of Sharia law violators indoors, to avoid public spectacles that draw hundreds of jeering spectators. But public lashings were still being carried out this month.
Commenting on Saturday’s incident, Zulfikar Muhammad, executive director of the Human Rights NGO Coalition in Aceh, condemned what he called an “arbitrary act”.
“This is not the first case. Before this there were people who had sewage poured on them because they were accused of violating Sharia laws,” Zulfikar said.
In March, a man and his girlfriend were showered with sewage by locals who raided a house they were in on suspicion that they were being intimate while unmarried.
Zulfikar and Alidar urged authorities to take action against vigilante acts to prevent people from taking the law into their own hands and tarnishing the implementation of Sharia in Aceh.
“These are illegal, criminal acts committed by members of the public. Police must move swiftly, not waiting for a complaint,” Zulfikar said.
“In Islam, accusing someone of illicit sex or adultery without evidence can be punished,” he said.
Langsa police chief Satya Yudha Prakasa said an investigation was underway.
“Our personnel are on the ground investigating,” he said, adding that the victims had yet to file a police report.