Prosecutors in Indonesia’s province of Aceh who have put two men, ages 23 and 20, on trial for the crime under Shariah law of gay sex have called for each to be punished with 80 lashes of the cane.
The maximum sentence allowable is 100 lashes. The lead prosecutor, Gulmani, said the two men had “confessed” in the face of video evidence taken under duress. The men are the first to be tried under the law.
The couple was arrested in late March after neighborhood vigilantes in the provincial capital Banda Aceh suspected them of being gay and set out to catch them having sex. Mobile phone footage that circulated online and forms part of the evidence shows one of the men naked and visibly distressed as he apparently calls for help on his cellphone. The second man is repeatedly pushed by another man who is preventing the couple from leaving the room.
If found guilty, the men will be the first to be caned for gay sex under a new Shariah code implemented in Aceh two years ago. Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia to practice Shariah law, which was a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a years-long war with separatists.
In Aceh, the Shariah court’s panel of three judges will announce its verdict next week.
Gulmani told reporters that the men did not accept the court’s offer to appoint a defense lawyer. He declined to elaborate but guilty verdicts are certain in most cases that reach the Shariah court.
The development is one of several in recent years that suggest Indonesia has taken a hard turn toward a more draconian interpretation of Islam, including the conviction Tuesday of the governor of Jakarta to two years in prison for the crime of “blasphemy.” This turn has included an intolerance for LGBTQ individuals, both in criminal crackdowns and policing of social media as well as in the inflammatory rhetoric of its political figures.
Human Rights Watch highlighted this worsening situation in its call for the two men to be released, in which they asserted that “These men had their privacy invaded in a frightening and humiliating manner and now face public torture for the ‘crime’ of their alleged sexual orientation.”
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