Indonesia urged to free 4 arrested for gay sex

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Jakarta, April 3 (IANS) Human Rights Watch has urged the authorities in Indonesia’s Aceh province, where Islamic law is in force, to release four people arrested on suspicion of gay sex.

The accused were handed over to the religious police after two raids conducted by residents on March 12 and 29 in the provincial capital Banda Aceh, in Sumatra. They remain in detention, Efe news reported.

In the first case, the civilian vigilantes broke into a hairdressing salon and accused a transgender woman and one of the clients of involvement in same-sex relations and reportedly found condoms.

In another case, two university students, one of them Christian and the other a Muslim, were arrested from a house in the Lamtimpeung neighbourhood, in a raid by residents, who also confiscated cell phones and condoms, the report said.

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“These vigilante raids and arbitrary detentions underscore the abusive and discriminatory nature of Aceh’s criminal code,” said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT rights programme.

Aceh began to impose Islamic law or Sharia under a concession made by the central government in early 2000 to persuade it to abandon its aspirations for independence.

HRW urged the central government to respect the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2005 and which includes a duty to “prevent torture and punish those who commit it”.

The crime of “liwath”, or sodomy among men, is punishable with up to 100 lashes under Islamic law in Aceh.

Last year, two men were punished for engaging in same-sex relationships with 83 lashes in public.

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NGOs and activists have denounced a recent spike in repression against the LGBT community in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population.

–IANS

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