Hotli Simanjuntak and Moses Ompusunggu, Banda Aceh/Jakarta – A prosecutor in Aceh province has claimed that two Buddhists voluntarily chose to be punished under sharia after being found guilty of gambling.
On March 9, hundreds of people in Aceh Besar regency, Aceh, witnessed the first instance of Buddhists being caned for violating sharia, which is implemented across the province.
Alem, 57, and Amel, 60 – both Buddhists of Chinese descent – were among six people punished by sharia police officers and members of the Aceh Besar Prosecutor's Office in a public whipping outside the Al Munawaroh mosque in Jantho.
The Banda Aceh-based Buddhist men were caned nine times each for gambling through cockfighting – an offense regulated under sharia.
A 35-year-old Muslim and resident of Kuta Baro in Aceh Besar, Mukhlis bin Abu Mutaleb, was also caned for gambling on Friday, receiving 10 lashes.
The sharia-ruled Aceh requires anybody regardless of their religion and beliefs to obey a jinayat (Islamic criminal bylaw) enacted in the province in 2014 as a revision to a controversial 2009 jinayat that upheld the punishment of stoning to death.
But non-Muslims found guilty of committing crimes can choose whether to be punished by caning under jinayat or by incarceration under the country's Criminal Code (KUHP).
Violations of sharia that are not mentioned in the KUHP include drinking liquor, khalwat (affectionate contact between an unmarried couple) and women not wearing a headscarf or wearing tight pants.
Gambling, of which Alem and Amel were found guilty, is regulated under Article 303 of the KUHP. The article carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment and a Rp 25 million (US$1,871) fine.
"By accepting being punished for gambling under sharia, they voluntarily wanted to be whipped," said Aziz, an Aceh Besar prosecutor.
Non-Muslims are automatically punished by caning under sharia if they commit crimes that are not regulated in the KUHP. The first non-Muslim to be caned in Aceh was a man identified as Remita Sinaga or Mak Ucok in mid-2016. He was found guilty of selling liquor.
The caning of Alem, Amel and Mukhlis, however, was much lighter than the punishment for other convicts, who received hundreds of lashes for adultery and sexual offenses.
A 41-year-old farmer and Islamic educator, Darmawan AB bin Abdullah, was whipped 112 times for sexually abusing three children. The Aceh Besar Prosecutor's Office initially sentenced him to 120 strokes of the cane, but his time in detention was taken into account and the punishment was reduced.
Aziz said Darmawan forced his victims, who were also his students, to perform fellatio on him.
"The victims were boys aged between 15 and 16 years old. The defendant committed the crimes in different places and at different times," Aziz explained.
Two other Muslims whipped in public on Friday were Raidi Afrizal bin Bukhari, 25, and Cici Nanda Julia binti Mukhtar, 18, for adultery. They received 100 lashes each for violating the 2014 bylaw.