Sun, Jun 12, 2005 - Page 5 News List

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

AP , JAKARTA, INDONESIA

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.

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