Aceh council passes bylaw
on stoning adulterers to

Defying strong objections from human rights groups and the provincial administration, the Aceh legislative council passed the Islamic criminal code Monday, allowing adulterers to be stoned to death.

Under the new bylaw, homosexuality is also punishable by lengthy prison terms.

The controversial ordinance will take effect within 30 days for both Muslims and non-Muslims accused of committing adulterous acts.

The passed jinayat (forbidden due to Ahram) bylaw did not include corruption, thefts and bribery as punishable crimes.

The bylaw, which reinforces Aceh's already strict Islamic ordinances, was endorsed in a plenary meeting two weeks before a new legislative led by the moderate Aceh Party was sworn in following a heavy defeat of conservative Muslim parties in local direct elections.

Out of eight parties in the council, only the Democratic Party rejected capital punishment by stoning.

The Democratic Party also demanded that the new bylaw only allow for stoning to be carried between four times and 100 times at maximum, not between 40 and 200 times as required by the ordinance.

Opposition also came from human rights groups and the Aceh executive body led by Governor Irwandy Yusuf, a former separatist leader. The Aceh administration rejected any form of capital punishment because it was in violation of human rights principles.

"It's final that the Aceh administration would not enforce stoning for Islamic sharia law violators. In Islam, the law must protect its citizens' human rights," Aceh Vice Governor Muhammad Nazar said.

The current council is dominated by the established political parties, while the Irwandy-Nazar pairing won the gubernatorial election in 2006 on an independent ticket.

Outside the council building, dozens of rights activists staged a rally to pressure the legislature to postpone passing the bylaw as it contained obscure articles that could spark misuse by sharia law enforcers.

"We want the multi-intrepretative stipulations in the bylaw immediately revoked, otherwise it could lead to the arrest of innocent people," said Azriana from Aceh's National Commission on Women's Protection.

Zulfikar M., spokesman for the rights groups said the bylaw allows pardons for certain people if they were law enforcers. He and other rights activists said they had not been not involved in designing and approving the contentious bylaw.

The new ordinance orders married Muslims or non-Muslims involved in adultery to be stoned 100 times, or to death, while unmarried violators are threatened with canning 100 times.

Beauty salons, hotels and other similar places are also punishable by the new ordinance should they be found guilty of facilitating or allowing sharia law violations.

Among other punishable ethical crimes are homosexuality, lesbianism and kissing or hugging by unmarried couples at public places.

The bylaw threatens homosexuals with a maximum of 100 lashings, or a maximum penalty of more than eight years in prison.

Sharia law, which was introduced in the devoutly Islamic Aceh in 2001, already bans gambling, drinking alcohol and makes it compulsory for women to wear headscarves.

Dozens of public canings have been carried out by the local sharia police against violators of Islamic law.

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