Christian is whipped for selling sharia-banned alcohol in Muslim-majority Indonesia as prosecutor states he ‘bowed’ to religious law
An Indonesian Christian was publicly flogged on Friday for selling alcohol which is deemed a violation of Islamic sharia law.
Jono Simbolon grimaced in pain when a masked religious officer lashed his back with a rattan stick on a makeshift stage outside a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.
He was said to have ‘bowed to’ the law known locally as Qanun and was sentenced to 36 lashings as a result, avoiding a potentially lengthy prison sentence.
Simbolon is only the third non-Muslim to suffer a public whipping since Aceh, on Sumatra island, began implementing Islamic law after it was granted special autonomy in 2001 – an attempt by the central government to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.
About 98 percent of Aceh’s five million residents are Muslims subject to the Qanun religious law.
Non-Muslims who have committed an offence that violates both national and religious laws – such as selling bootleg liquor – can choose to be prosecuted under either system.
Chief prosecutor Erwin Desman said as a Christian, Simbolon decided to be prosecuted under the religious law adding that the man may have chosen a flogging to avoid a lengthy criminal prosecution.
Banda Aceh mayor Aminullah Usman spoke at the public lashing, during which children cheered, and said: ‘This is our government’s commitment to enforcing Islamic law.
‘If there is a violation of the law, immediately report it to the sharia police and we will carry out a punishment like today’s caning.’
After 10 canings, a doctor had to check on Simbolon’s condition before he was passed fit for the flogging to continue.
He was one of 10 people – eight men and two women – caned after Friday prayers for offences including pimping, prostitution and gambling.
One unmarried couple received 20 strokes each for being too physically close to each other – seen as a prelude to banned pre-marital sex.
Sharia law in Banda Aceh: Public lashings in Indonesia
In the past two years or so, MailOnline has reported on the troubling rising trend of public lashings carried out in Aceh, Indonesia:
March 1, 2016: Woman whipped 50 times for spending time alone with a man at the age of 19.
March 24, 2016: Young woman carried from the stage on a stretcher after being lashed for sex outside marriage.
August 1, 2016: Another woman is lashed for going on a date in Aceh.
August 15, 2016: Elderly man caned for breaking Sharia law.
September 11, 2016: Man and a woman lashed for having an affair and among the gathered crowd is the mayor of Banda Aceh.
October 17, 2016: Muslim woman screams out in pain on stage after being lashed 23 times for standing too close to her boyfriend.
October 31, 2016: A woman, 20, caned in public for getting too close to a man she wasn’t married to.
November 28, 2016: Man and a woman lashed 100 times each for adultery.
February 2, 2017: Enforcer lands 26 beatings across the back of a woman for having sex outside of wedlock.
February 10, 2017: Woman collapses in pain on stage as she is being caned.
February 27, 2017: Man collapses on stage as he is being whipped for having sex outside of marriage.
August 25, 2017: Ten Indonesians sentenced to up to 100 lashes of the whip for adultery.
September 12, 2017: Woman hospitalised after 100 lashes for being with a man who wasn’t her husband.
November 17, 2017: Woman is caned for adultery.
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, which implements Islamic law, or Sharia.
Last year, two gay men who admitted having sex were flogged in Aceh, with each receiving 100 strokes of the cane, drawing heavy criticism from rights groups.
Gay sex is not illegal in the rest of Indonesia, which mainly follows a criminal code inherited from former colonial ruler the Netherlands.
The province of Banda Aceh began implementing Sharia law after being granted autonomy in 2001 – an attempt by the government in Jakarta to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.
Islamic laws have been strengthened since Aceh struck a peace deal with Jakarta in 2005.
People are flogged for a range of offences including gambling, drinking alcohol, gay sex or any sexual relationship outside marriage.
More than 90 per cent of the 255million people who live in Indonesia describe themselves as Muslim, but the vast majority practice a moderate form of the faith.
The brutal and public beatings have become more prevalent this year with a number of reported incidents of those being punished collapsing in pain on stage.
Back in September 2014, Aceh approved an anti-homosexuality law that can punish anyone caught having gay sex with 100 lashes.
After a three-decade-old separatist movement, a peace agreement signed in 2005 granted special autonomy to Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra, on condition that it remained part of the sprawling archipelago.
As part of that deal, Aceh won the right to be the only Indonesian province to use Islamic sharia law as its legal code.
Anybody caught engaging in consensual gay sex is punished with 100 lashes, 100 months in jail or a fine of 1,000 grams of gold.
The law also set out punishment for sex crimes, unmarried people engaging in displays of affection, people caught found guilty of adultery and underage sex.
Religious police in Aceh have been known to target Muslim women without head scarves or those wearing tight clothes, and people drinking alcohol or gambling.
Over the past decade, the central government has devolved more power to regional authorities to increase autonomy and speed up development.
Engaging in homosexual acts is not a crime under Indonesia’s national criminal code but remains taboo in many conservative parts of the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.
The trend appeared to be slowing down after a string of worrying incidents at the turn of the new year, but the new pictures reveal the practice still looms large in Indonesia.
Men and women have collapsed in pain due to the severity of their injuries and people can be caned for something as innocent as standing too close to a partner in public or being seen alone with someone they are not married to.
Pine trees outside a mosque in Sharia-law province of Aceh are cut down ‘because they resembled Christmas trees’
Officials at a mosque in Indonesia’s Aceh province have cut down 10 pines because they were said to resemble Christmas trees.
Citizens in Aceh are ruled by the ultra-strict Islamic Sharia law.
Chairman of the Baitul Makmur Meulaboh Mosque, named only as Anwar, said as well as looking like a Christmas tree the trees had become unkempt and obscured the view of the building from the road.