04/13/2018, 09.20
INDONESIA
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Aceh, stops public flogging: only in prison and no video

About 98% of the five million Aceh residents are Muslims, subject to Sharia law. The punishment came into force around 2005 following a peace agreement between Jakarta and the local Islamic separatist movement. Non-Muslims can choose between flogging  and prison.

Banda Aceh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Indonesian province of Aceh,  which has “special status” on the island of Sumatra where Sharia is in effect, will no longer publically flog criminals, following a wave of international condemnation of the practice. The conservative region, the only one to follow Islamic law in the most populous Muslim country in the world, yesterday approved a regulation under which the condemned will be whipped only behind the walls of the prison.

It is not clear when the provision will come into force. Public flogging outside Aceh mosques is a common punishment for a large number of crimes ranging from gambling to drinking, and draws crowds of adults and children.

President Joko Widodo, an exponent of a nationalist political current that promotes pluralism, last year called for an end to public punishment in Aceh. "This (law) is to muffle protest... to muffle Islamophobia," Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf said. "We don't want Islamophobia to interfere with (Indonesia's) foreign affairs".

About 98% of the five million residents of Aceh are Muslims, subject to religious laws. Sharia entered into force around 2005 following a peace agreement between Jakarta and the Islamic separatist group the Liberation Movement of Aceh (Gam). Non-Muslims can usually choose whether to be punished or not under Islamic law and sometimes choose a painful flogging to avoid lengthy judicial proceedings and imprisonment.

According to the new rule, whipping with a rattan stick can no longer be filmed on video, as is often the case with viewers' smartphones, and only journalists and adults can witness the whipping in prisons. "The prisoner is punished once, but if it's recorded on video and that's uploaded to YouTube, he is punished for life with those images," Irwandi said.

Human rights activists welcome the new provision, but radical movements in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh protest, claiming that it will result in "more sharia violations".

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