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Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Shariah court in Indonesia sentences gay couple to caning

Shariah court in Indonesia sentences gay couple to caning

Banda Aceh sharia police officer Efendi Latief said they would be caned with about four or five male and female couples, who would receive 25 and 30 lashes each for ikhtilat, which is hugging and kissing between unmarried couples. The maximum sentence for the crime is 100 lashes, but the court sentenced the men to 85 each after they apologized for their actions.

However, a nationwide campaign by conservative civil society groups against homosexuality has culminated in a major case that is now before the country's Constitutional Court, which will decide whether sex outside marriage should be banned throughout Indonesia.

The sentence handed down by the judges exceeded the 80 lashes requested by the prosecutors.

The sentencing on Wednesday coincided with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. A mobile footage that circulated online, which formed part of the evidence, shows one of the men naked and distressed as he made a phone call for help. The other is physically blocked by a man from leaving the room.

"The defendants are proven to have committed sodomy and are found guilty", Mr Khairil Jamal, the presiding judge, said in a statement.

The convicted men will be publicly caned in the province's capital Banda Aceh on May 23 before the fasting month of Ramadan starts, according to the lead prosecutor, Gulmaini, who goes by single name.

Worldwide human rights groups described the treatment of the men as abusive and humiliating and called for their immediate release.

The LGBT community in Indonesia has faced growing pressure since high-ranking government officials previous year expressed reservations about activism by its members.

Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, Andreas Harsono, said: "The prosecution is very harsh".

To do so constitutes khalwat, directly translated as "seclusion" and punishable by public caning.

Aceh was granted autonomy to introduce sharia law under a peace deal with the Indonesian Government to end civil war in the province. The sentencing of these two men comes just days after the imprisonment of outgoing Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok.

While homosexuality has never been illegal in Indonesia, attitudes towards LGBT people have become steadily more extreme in recent years despite a growing gay population.

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