Two men face 80 lashes in Indonesia after being accused of having gay sex

Guardian

Sharia lawyers in Aceh province say pair ‘confessed’ to being in a gay relationship after they were filmed by vigilantes

Two men accused of having gay sex sit during their trial at Sharia court in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Two men accused of having gay sex sit during their trial at Sharia court in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Photograph: Heri Juanda/AP

Sharia prosecutors in Indonesia’s Aceh province say two men on trial for gay sex should each be punished with 80 lashes, in another blow to the country’s moderate image after a top Christian official was imprisoned for blasphemy.

The lead prosecutor, Gulmaini, who goes by one name, said on Wednesday the two men aged 20 and 23 had “confessed” to being in a gay relationship, which was supported by video footage and other evidence found in their rented room.

The men were led into the court handcuffed together and pulled their shirts up to partially obscure their faces.

They were arrested in late March after neighbourhood vigilantes in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, suspected them of being gay and set out to catch them having sex. Mobile phone footage that circulated online and forms part of the evidence shows one of the men naked and visibly distressed as he apparently calls for help on his cellphone. The second man is repeatedly pushed by another man who is preventing the couple from leaving the room.

If found guilty the men will be the first to be caned for gay sex under a new sharia code implemented in Aceh two years ago. Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia to practice sharia law, which was a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a years-long war with separatists.

Indonesia’s reputation for practising a moderate form of Islam has been battered in the past year due to attacks on religious minorities, a surge in persecution of gay people and a polarising election campaign for Jakarta governor that highlighted the growing strength of hardline Islamic groups.

On Tuesday the outgoing Jakarta governor, a minority Christian, was sentenced to two years’ prison for blasphemy against the Qur’an.

In Aceh the sharia court’s panel of three judges will announce its verdict next week.

Gulmani told reporters that the men did not accept the court’s offer to appoint a defence lawyer. He declined to elaborate but guilty verdicts are certain in most cases that reach the sharia court.

The sharia code allows up to 100 lashes for morality offences including gay sex. Caning is also a punishment for adultery, gambling, drinking alcohol, women who wear tight clothes and men who skip Friday prayers.

Human Rights Watch has called for authorities to immediately release the two men. “These men had their privacy invaded in a frightening and humiliating manner and now face public torture for the ’crime’ of their alleged sexual orientation,” it said in a statement last month.

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About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage dotchuoinon.com on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development (cvdvn.net). I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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