Province Promises No More Public Sharia Caning, Promptly Canes 15 People Publicly

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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A conservative Muslim province in Indonesia promised to stop carrying out public canings, then caned 15 people publicly Friday who were convicted of violating Sharia law.

Authorities in the capital of Aceh province had the 15 offenders caned in full view of a crowd of hundreds, including tourists, outside the Baiturrahim Mosque after prayers Friday. Among those caned were a gay couple, captured by locals, who received 86 lashes each, and 13 others accused of either selling or imbibing alcohol or showing public displays of affection. (RELATED: Indonesian Airline To Use All Male Staff On Flights To Region That Demanded Stewardesses Wear Hijabs)

The Banda Aceh prosecutors’ office claimed that it had not received any order to stop public canings, but that the office would reexamine the issue.

“There are pros and cons for this in society. So we suggest we sit with the governor again (to discuss this),” Erwin Desman, chief of the office, said according to Reuters.

Public caning was initially introduced to Aceh province in 2005. Hundreds of people have been caned publicly since then for various alleged violations of Sharia law.

Irwandi Yusuf signed a memorandum of understanding along with the leader of the province’s Law and Human Rights office in April, while Yusuf was the provincial governor, pledging that canings would henceforth be confined to prisons and detention centers, away from the public eye.

Yusuf signed the pledge in response to human rights activists’ outcry against the public caning of two gay men in 2017, which they called “medieval torture” and which sparked a surge in anti-gay sentiment in Indonesia.

Muhammad Hidayat, chief of Banda Aceh’s security office, claimed that authorities still held the canings in public “because there was no technical guidance yet” concerning implementation of the memorandum that Yusuf signed.

“The authority of caning within the prisons is on the hand of the prosecutor’s office,” Hidayat said, according to The Associated Press.

Aceh is the only Indonesian province governed by Sharia law.

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