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Judicial CP - June 2005

Corpun file 16001

Taipei Times, Taiwan, 12 June 2005

'Gamblers' to get seven lashes with a cane in Indonesia

Associated Press, Jakarta

Authorities in Indonesia's Aceh province will begin caning convicted gamblers next week, as part of efforts to broaden the implementation of Islamic law in the region, a government official said yesterday.

The mayor of the east Aceh town of Bireuen Mustofa Gelanggang said authorities next Friday will cane at least 20 convicted gamblers with seven strokes of a 2m rattan stick following prayers at a local mosque. The date was set after Acting Aceh Governor Azwar Abubakar signed a law approving the punishment Friday.

The law comes two years after the conservative province became the first in Indonesia to open an Islamic court, which is empowered to hand down punishments according to the Koran.

Abubakar is expected to sign additional legislation in the coming weeks that expands the use of caning to punish adultery and other crimes, Gelanggang said.

"With this punishment, we hope the convicts will avoid these crimes in the future because they would be ashamed to be caned before the public," Gelanggang said.

The small number of Christians and believers of other faiths in Aceh will not facing caning or be prosecuted in the Islamic court.

Aceh's population practices a more conservative version of Islam than much of Indonesia, and officials say Muslim efforts to implement Shariah law elsewhere are unlikely to succeed.

The Dec. 26 tsunami that killed more than 128,000 people in the province and destroyed much of the government infrastructure forced authorities to briefly abandon Islamic law -- including requiring Muslim women to wear head scarves.

But in recent weeks, the Islamic court has resumed functioning and witnesses have said that police are again stopping women deemed to be dressed inappropriately.

Copyright 1999-2005 The Taipei Times. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 16043

Jakarta Post, 23 June 2005

Public canings to start in Aceh for gamblers

By Nani Afrida
The Jakarta Post
Banda Aceh

Muhammad Ali, a convicted gambler facing a public caning, gave a weary look when asked about his punishment. The man in his 40s confessed that he had left his fate to God.

"If they insist on punishing me in this way, then they can go ahead. But they have should have punished the (big-time) graft convicts first," Ali said.

Ali, a construction worker, was arrested on April 30 this year when police found him and his six of his friends involved in illegal gambling in Pulo Kitca, Bireuen.

After being jailed for 15 days, he was freed by the police, but now he has to answer to the province's Islamic court, which will punish him under a new bylaw inspired by sharia law.

Shortly after his release, Ali was summoned by the Bireuen Sharia Office, which passed his sentence -- 10 strokes of the rattan cane to be delivered in public.

Ali, and 25 other gamblers, are scheduled to be caned on Friday in an open field in Bireuen regency, some 200 kilometers east of Banda Aceh. The Bireuen regental government has even prepared a stage where the caning takes place, presumably so interested members of the public can get a better view.

The caning sentence, the first such corporal punishment verdict in Aceh's modern history, is a product of the autonomy law, which gives the traditional and conservative province the right to enact its own bylaws. Its announcement caused controversy on Wednesday when it was made public.

While some have opposed the caning, others questioned why the painful and humiliating punishment did not apply to the big-time thieves, the politicians and public officials convicted of stealing billions of rupiah in public money.

"Why is the caning sentence only targeting the gamblers, drinkers and those who have committed adultery? It should apply also to the graft convicts," said Maisarah, 45, a resident of Jambo Tape, Banda Aceh.

But if the provincial leaders have their way, those found guilty of graft offences could face a much tougher punishment than caning.

In Aceh, there are currently only three bylaws passed that relate to sharia law -- those that prohibit gambling, adultery, and the consumption of alcohol drinks. Corruption, meanwhile, is being included in a new law encompassing theft.

"The bylaw on theft, including corruption offences, is being deliberated by the Sharia Office," said Raihan Iskandar, the deputy speaker of the Aceh provincial council.

Once the office completes its work, the new law will be proposed to the Aceh provincial council for approval.

According to Raihan, the office was proposing convicted thieves would have their hands amputated, a tradition still practiced in Saudi Arabia.

This tough punishment would help establish order in the province and be an effective deterrent, he said.

Corpun file 16067


BBC News, London, 24 June 2005


Aceh gamblers caned in public

The Indonesian province of Aceh has held its first public caning, under the region's special Islamic laws.

Fifteen people were caned for gambling offences outside a mosque in the town of Bireuen on Friday.

Aceh implemented partial Sharia law in 2001, as part of an autonomy deal offered by the Jakarta government.

The province has a higher proportion of Muslims than other areas of Indonesia, and many Acehnese practice a stricter version of Islam.

The 15 men were flogged with a rattan cane on a specially-constructed stage in front of the Grand Mosque following midday prayers on Friday.

Another 11 people are due to be caned at a later date.

According to reports from the scene, the event was more of a festival than a punishment exercise.

According to a BBC reporter in Bireuen, Maskur Abdullah, crowds of people, including children, watched the proceedings - cheering and booing as the culprits were brought onto the stage to receive their punishments.

One of the convicted men even faced the crowd afterwards and showed told them he had felt no pain, our reporter says.

On Thursday Bireuen's district chief Mustafa Geulanggang explained why the authorities had decided to implement caning as a punishment.

"It's not about pain," he told the BBC. "The aim is to shame people and deter them from doing the same criminal acts in the future."

Partial self-rule

The Jakarta government allowed Aceh to implement Sharia law as part of a 2001 package offering the province limited self-rule.

The package was designed to end the long-running insurgency by separatist rebels from the Free Aceh Movement, Gam.

Although the peace process broke down in May 2003, the province continued to implement the new laws.

The people of Aceh are banned from gambling, adultery and drinking alcohol, and both men and women are expected to dress modestly.

But analysts say that some of the harsher punishments imposed in other Sharia states, such as amputation of hands and feet or even stonings, are extremely unlikely to be carried out in Aceh.

It is unclear how much support the imposition of Islamic law has in the province.

The rebels have made it clear they are not fighting for an Islamic state and are opposed to the new measures.

Since the Indian Ocean tsunami last December, which devastated huge swathes of Aceh and left 160,000 people dead or missing, both the Jakarta government and the rebels have renewed their efforts to negotiate a peace settlement.

But on the ground the conflict continues, and analysts fear it could hinder the post-tsunami reconstruction.

Corpun file 16273


Reuters, 24 June 2005

Flogging in Indonesia

An Acehnese man is flogged as part of his sentence for illegal gambling in the town of Bireuen, in the tsunami-hit province of Aceh, June 24, 2005. Indonesia carried out its first public canings on Friday, punishing 15 gamblers in front of a noisy crowd in tsunami-hit Aceh, the only province in the world's most populous Muslim nation to implement Islamic law. REUTERS

Corpun file 16152

Jakarta Post, 25 June 2005

Aceh gamblers on caning deterrent

By Nani Afrida
The Jakarta Post/Bireuen

The Bireuen regental administration on Friday had 15 men convicted of gambling publicly caned in the first implementation of corporal punishment in Aceh since the province adopted Islamic law in 2003.

The public canings were administered in front of the Bireuen Grand Mosque and witnessed by some 3,000 rowdy spectators. The function also drew wide media attention, both domestic and foreign. A private news television station in Jakarta even broadcast it live.

The canings began after Friday prayers at 2 p.m. Officials and clerics, including chief of the Aceh sharia court Alyasa Abu Bakar, spoke in defense of public canings, saying that the punishment would cure people of gambling.

Then, under the beating sun, the convicted petty gamblers were brought to a specially-erected stage before the mosque and then caned one by one. The caning was administered by an official dressed in a green robe and hood, who administered between six and 10 strokes of a rattan cane to the back of each convict.

Syafrizal, a convicted gambler, shouted out Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great) before being caned.

At times, spectators cheered and howled as the one meter rattan stick struck the convicts' bodies, however the strokes were carefully measured not to break the skin.

After the proceedings were over, Aceh acting governor Azwar Abu Bakar greeted the convicts warmly and hugged them tight.

There were no reports of any serious injury as a result of the canings, leaving the 30 medical staff and five ambulances with nothing to do.

It was initially expected that 26 convicted gamblers would be caned, however after medical check-ups only 15 men were deemed fit, including one man in his 60s. The administration will cane the rest of the men when they are fit enough to face the punishment.

The canings were administered after a law on corporal punishment was passed in Bireuen regency in March. Other regencies have not adopted this punishment in this devoutly Muslim province.

The sharia system was implemented in Aceh in 2003, two years after the central government granted special autonomy to the province in order to curb separatist demands. Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels have been fighting for independence from Indonesia since 1976.

Before the canings took place, Aceh regional governments had already enforced Muslim dress codes, mandatory prayers five times a day and the giving of alms.

Commenting on the punishment, the men expressed resentment over the caning. "This is unfair. The caning should have targeted the big shots as well," said Ridwan, a convicted gambler, before the caning took place. "For me, it is embarrassing," said Zakaria, another gambler.

The two were Bireuen residents convicted for participating in a small gambling party in a garden near their homes.

The canings have brought controversy in Jakarta. A human rights group, Elsam, regretted the caning, saying it was humiliating as it was done in public.

Other countries like Singapore and Malaysia also use caning as a punishment, but they do not carry out the punishments in public.

Corpun file 16106

Asia Times, Hong Kong, 30 June 2005

Southeast Asia

Flogging for Islamic law

By Bill Guerin


JAKARTA - More than a dozen men accused of placing Rp1,000 ($0.10) bets in an illegal lottery were flogged in public last week in tsunami-struck Aceh for violating Islamic (Sharia) law, marking the first public canning since the staunchly Muslim province adopted such laws in 2003.

The offenders, who had already been detained for 22 days without the chance to be represented by lawyers, each received between six and 10 strokes of a rattan cane across the back from a masked and hooded algojo, or flogger. A noisy crowd of about 2,000 people witnessed the floggings, held outside the main mosque in Biruen after Friday prayers.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia to implement Sharia law, a freedom granted to the courts as part of an autonomy package offered by Jakarta in an effort to quell separatism in the province. Despite the fact that Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country (some 88% of its 230 million population are registered as Muslims), Islam has never been declared the national religion.

Sharia law is a comprehensive set of laws that govern everything from banking to prayer, theft and adultery. But among Muslim groups there is no single interpretation of Sharia, as it is based on teachings from many noted scholars (ulemas) who have different interpretations of the two main sources of Islamic law - Islam's holy text, the Koran, and hadith (the traditions and sayings attributed to the Prophet Mohammed).

Saudi Arabia administers Sharia to the full. Thieves have their hands chopped off as punishment - the so-called hudud laws - while adulteresses are stoned to death. Though caning is frequently practiced in Singapore and Malaysia as a judicial punishment, it is not carried out in public.

There seems little danger of Sharia spreading to other provinces in Indonesia. But the question remains: is the gentle caning of a few small-time punters in a province that suffered the loss of more than 128,000 people and saw much of the government infrastructure destroyed by last year's tsunami, the thin edge of the wedge?

No Islamic state

The founding fathers dismissed demands for an Islamic state at independence in 1945, but the Acehnese, who saw the revolution against the Dutch in the 1940s as an Islamic struggle, felt that Sukarno, the country's first president, had let them down by going back on his earlier promise to allow the province to fully implement Sharia.

They had to wait until January 2001 before being granted permission to implement Sharia as part of a broad autonomy offered by then-president Abdurrahman Wahid that allowed the province to implement partial Sharia law and have its own Sharia police and education system.

Although Aceh holds the world's richest onshore reserves of natural gas, estimated at 40 billion cubic meters, and provided an estimated 11% of the country's total exports in 2001, less than 10% of this wealth was reinvested in the province. Critics said the autonomy package and the right to implement Sharia, which would also give Aceh a greater share of revenue from these rich resources, was simply aimed at dampening separatist sentiment in the province.

However, the move formed the basis of a ceasefire deal signed in December 2002 between the government, then led by president Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the country's first president, and pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels, who have waged a guerrilla war since 1976 in which more than 12,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

GAM, however, has made it clear they are not fighting for an Islamic state, and Hasballah Sa'ad, a former minister for human rights who is Acehnese himself, said Sharia would do nothing to appease GAM and other independence activists.

"We know the people of Aceh have wanted to apply Sharia since the 1950s, but GAM never asked for Sharia," Sa'ad said. Although the peace process broke down in May 2003 and a full-scale military offensive was simultaneously launched against GAM, the local government nevertheless went on to implement new laws banning adultery, drinking alcohol and gambling - the law those flogged last Friday were accused of violating.

At first the local administration concerned itself with simple issues, such as Muslims who failed to attend Friday prayers, or those who sold food or cigarettes during the fasting month of Ramadan. Some 20 district religious courts were set up to deal with issues such as divorce.

Flogging for corruptors?

Majelis Permusyawaratan Ulama (MPU) - the consultative assembly of religious leaders in Aceh, laid down the punishment for the unfortunates who were caned last week after acting Governor Azwar Abubakar signed the law approving the flogging. According to Mustofa Gelanggang, the mayor of Biruen, the governor will sign off on more legislation in the coming weeks that will expand the use of caning to punish other crimes.

Biruen's district chief Mustofa Gelanggang said caning as a punishment was "not about pain, but to shame people and deter them from doing the same criminal acts in the future". He was presumably referring to gambling and adultery, not to corruption. In April, former Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh was sentenced to 10 years in jail for stealing state funds when marking up the purchase of a helicopter in 2001.

"We want to build a cool image of Islam in Aceh," Puteh told guests at the opening ceremony for the first Sharia court in March 2003 when he was still governor. The province will get about US$6 billion in aid to help with reconstruction and rehabilitation after the tsunami, but the Puteh case highlights major concerns on how transparently the funds will be disbursed and used, given the levels of corruption in the country (and in Aceh province particularly).

Corruptors may yet have much to worry about even before they end up in the dock. "People must know there is a punishment for a crime," warned Aceh's Sharia law chief, Alyasa Abubakar. Raihan Iskandar, the deputy speaker of the Aceh provincial council, has said even tougher punishments are under consideration. The Sharia Office is deliberating the law on theft, including corruption offences, Iskandar said.


Bill Guerin, a Jakarta correspondent for Asia Times Online since 2000, has worked in Indonesia for 19 years as a journalist. He has been published by the BBC on East Timor and specializes in business/economic and political analysis in Indonesia.

Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved.

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