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Indonesia’s conservative Aceh whips unmarried couples after hotel raid

Two women unable to walk after the painful punishment

BANDA ACEH: An Indonesian woman is whipped in public in Banda Aceh yesterday. Six couples were publicly whipped in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province for relations outside marriage, with at least two women unable to walk after the painful punishment. — AFP

BANDA ACEH: Six couples were publicly whipped in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province yesterday for relations outside marriage, with at least two women unable to walk after the painful punishment. Flogging is common for a range of offences in the region at the tip of Sumatra island, including gambling, drinking alcohol, and having gay sex.

It is the only province in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country that imposes Islamic law. The twelve people whipped yesterday were arrested late last year during a raid on a hotel in the province’s capital Banda Aceh. Four people were each flogged seven times after being found with a member of the opposite sex who wasn’t a relation. The others-who were caught in more compromising positions-received between 17-25 strokes for having intimate relations outside of marriage, an official said.
All 12 also served several months in prison before the public punishment. Some women cried out in pain as a masked sharia officer lashed them, and at least two had to be carried from the scene by sharia officers. Dozens of spectators and journalists watched quietly. Some winced occasionally after the blows, while others used smartphones and tablets to film the spectacle. “This law is designed to have a deterrent effect, not only for the offenders but for the spectators who watch the caning,” said the head of the local public order agency, Marwan, who like many Indonesian goes by one name.

He added: “The pain of being flogged is not that bad, the embarrassment is worse.” Rights groups have slammed public caning as cruel, and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has called for it to end. But the practice has wide support among Aceh’s mostly Muslim population-around 98 percent of its five million residents practice Islam. Aceh adopted religious law after it was granted special autonomy in 2001, an attempt by the central government to quell a long-running separatist insurgency. In December, two men caught having sex with underage girls were whipped 100 times each.

Drug suspect faces death
In another development, a French man faces execution under Indonesia’s strict drug laws after he was caught using a false-bottomed suitcase to smuggle narcotics into the Southeast Asian nation, an official said yesterday. Prosecutors have accused Felix Dorfin of trafficking four kilograms of cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines. The 35-year-old from Benthune in northern France was arrested after arriving at Lombok island’s airport from Singapore in September. “We are charging him with drug possession, carrying drugs to Indonesia from abroad, and trafficking drugs,” lead prosecutor Ginung Pratidina told the court.

He faced a potential death sentence if convicted, Pratidina added. Dorfin was read the charges with the aid of an English translator. The Frenchman escaped from jail in late January by sawing through bars on the second floor window of the prison and rappelling to freedom with a sarong. He spent nearly two weeks on the run before he was captured again in a forest in North Lombok. Police said Dorfin tried to bribe officers to let him go. A female police officer was arrested for allegedly helping Dorfin escape from jail in exchange for Rp 14.5 million (around $1,000).

Indonesia has some of the world’s strictest drug laws-including death penalty sentences for drug traffickers. It has executed several foreign drug smugglers in the past including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, which sparked diplomatic tensions between the two countries. Indonesia has not executed anyone since 2016, but a number of foreigners are still on death row. Serge Atlaoui, a convicted French drug smuggler, has been on death row since 2007, while British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford has been on death row since 2013.- Agencies

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