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Judicial CP - October 2002

The Jakarta Post, 28 October 2002

Caning comes into effect in Aceh on 1st day of Ramadhan

The Aceh provincial administration is to introduce caning as punishment in the upcoming fasting month Ramadhan for Muslims who do not carry out their religious obligations.

Aceh Ulema Consultative Assembly (MPU) chairman Muslim Ibrahim said on Saturday that caning would be meted out on Muslims in Aceh who took lunch during the fasting month.

During Ramadhan, Muslims are supposed to refrain from eating, smoking and having sex from dawn to dusk. This year, Ramadhan is expected to start on Nov. 6.

Close to 85 percent of the country's 215 million population are Muslims.

Aceh, where secessionist group Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has been fighting for independence since 1976, was granted special autonomy status in 2001, under which the province was allowed, among other things, to implement Islamic law (sharia) in the territory.

Following the introduction of the special autonomy status, the Aceh provincial administration drafted a bylaw, locally known as Qanun, on sharia to be implemented in the country's westernmost province, where close to 98 percent of its population are Muslims.

"Caning will be introduced for Muslims who do not fast and are caught eating lunch in public places in the upcoming Ramadhan," Ibrahim was quoted by Antara as saying on Saturday.

Provincial authorities, he said, would still discuss how the caning would be carried out and how many lashes of the cane would be administered. He suggested that the caning be carried out in open places for public viewing.

It is still unclear how the political elite in Jakarta would react to the move.

Last in August, People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) chairman Amien Rais reacted angrily to the Malaysian government's decision to cane illegal Indonesians workers in that country, arguing that caning was inhuman and therefore totally unacceptable.

"Frankly, I feel disappointed, angry, and unable to accept the fact that Malaysia, a modern country which belongs to the same Malay ethnic group (as Indonesia), has resorted to punishing illegal Indonesian workers in a way that is really inhuman," Amien said.

Several Muslim politicians also shared Amien's view.

According to Ibrahim, who is also a lecturer in post graduate studies at the Arraniry Darussalam State Islamic University, ulema in Aceh province have chosen caning over other forms of punishment such as fines or stoning to penalize those who do not observe the fasting month.

He said the ulema agreed not to choose fines as a punishment as it would only encourage more crimes or sinful acts for the people who were well off.

"Yes, we all agreed to adopt caning, not fines or stoning, because fines would be too easy for rich people," Ibrahim said.

However, he fell short of saying that stoning was too heavy a punishment for violators., Manila, Philippines, 28 October 2002

Aceh to enforce partial Islamic law by 2005

Agence France-Presse

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- Indonesia's staunchly Muslim province of Aceh expects to enforce partial Islamic law, including caning for anyone who misses three weeks of Friday prayers, by 2005, an official said here Monday.

Head of the Aceh sharia office Alyasa' Abubakar told AFP that although the provincial parliament had already passed a law on partial sharia, or Islamic law, its implementation would only be started "about two years from now, I think."

Regulations provide for the caning of people caught eating during the daylight hours of the Muslim fasting month, which begins in early November. Anyone who misses Friday prayers three weeks in a row or who disturbs others during Friday prayers would also face the cane, Abubakar said.

"But this caning will not be able to be implemented soon because the legal infrastructure is not yet there," he said, referring to the Sharia court and the Sharia police.

He did not give details on other methods of punishment and what other offenses the laws would cover.

Abubakar said sharia in Aceh will be "implemented softly, and not like what was implemented in Afghanistan during the period of the Taliban government."

He said sharia will not disturb people's privacy and human rights.

The law will not apply to Aceh's non-Muslims, who will be brought to the secular state court, Abubakar said.

"Non-Muslims should not fear the implementation of the Islamic sharia because their rights will continue to be respected," he said.

Initially sharia will focus on religious obligations and public order, he said.

"What is clear is that the Islamic sharia in Aceh will be implemented gradually and only when the people are ready for it," Abubakar added.

"We also hope that there will be no violation of the Islamic sharia that has to be taken to court because... Muslims in Aceh have already implemented the obligations of their religion in a good and proper way," Abubakar said.

A provincial government regulation on the application of partial sharia in Aceh followed Jakarta's granting last year of a special autonomy law for the province.

The law came into effect in January and also allowed the local government to receive a greater share of its own natural resources, partly to subdue growing discontent and separatist sentiment.

Since 1976 armed rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have been fighting for an independent state in the resource-rich province on the northernmost tip of Indonesia's Sumatra island.

More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the conflict began. Rights groups estimate more than 1,000 deaths already this year.

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