The sharia police in Banda Aceh, Aceh Nanggroe Darussalam, have rounded up 15 young women after they were “caught” in a late-night coffee shop.
They have been accused of not wearing appropriate Muslim clothing and for loitering outdoors after midnight, both deemed to violate the Islamic moral code.
The women were arrested on Saturday in a number of late-night cafes and coffee shops in a string of sharia-enforcement patrols conducted by public order officers and sharia police in Aceh.
“The patrols were in connection to the proliferation of sharia violations by minors in Banda Aceh, especially in the city center,” said Banda Aceh Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) and Wilayatul Hisbah (WH) Sharia Police chief Rita Pujiastuti.
According to Rita, it was believed that certain teenagers choosing to hang out in coffee shops until the early hours were involved in prostitution.
“Apart from the loitering, we believe they are also involved in sex work,” said Rita.
Besides detaining the girls, the sharia police in Banda Aceh also arrested a number of youngsters dressed as punks and female beauty-parlor employees who were allegedly caught engaging in immoral acts.
They were detained at the Banda Aceh Public Order Agency and WH headquarters for questioning. They will be released in one day pending the completion of the investigation.
They were jailed without being given access to legal advice.
“The investigation will now focus on what sharia violations they committed. If they are proven to have violated sharia, the cases will be brought before the Sharia Court,” said Rita.
Rita said the police would further intensify raids in areas deemed “prone to sharia violations”.
“We will further fight to uphold sharia until Banda Aceh is free from vice and sharia violations,” said Rita.
Separately, Gita, a teenager from Jakarta, who has only been in Banda Aceh for three months, was one of the teenagers detained.
She said her arrest was without evidence and she strongly protested the inappropriate handling of the incident by the WH officers.
Gita said she and her fellow detainees were in a small crowded cell that lacked sufficient space to lie down.
“I’m an employee who was by chance sitting in a coffee shop. I don’t know why I was arrested for hanging out in a coffee shop late in the evening,” said Gita.
She said the sharia police officers had seized her cell phone, thus, she was unable to call her family to tell them she was being held by the police.
“This is too much for me. What’s the basis for confiscating my cell phone?” asked Gita.
Despite her anger, she said she stood no chance against the sharia police.
“I resign to my fate. It’s up to them, they are the ones who hold the law. I’m just the victim,” said Gita as she sobbed.
Recently, the Aceh Council approved the Qonun Acara Jinayah (the Criminal Code Procedure), which mandates that everyone in Aceh, regardless of religion, follow sharia.
Since the approval, the sharia police have often conducted raids urging women, including non-Muslims, to wear Muslim dress.
On Oct. 3, 2012, a 16-year-old girl committed suicide after certain media outlets reported that she had been arrested by the sharia police for alleged prostitution.
The girl was nabbed the previous evening while watching an organ tunggal performance in her neighborhood in Langsa, Aceh.
The sharia police later denied that they had made the statement labeling the girl a sex worker.
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