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28 April 2006


 The Indonesian government has insisted that Muslims and non-Muslims alike in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam district of Muslim-devout Aceh province should be tried by a planned Islamic Court. Non-Muslims accused

of committing crimes such as theft and adultery, would be tried under the Sharia inspired bylaws, state secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra told the special committee deliberating a crucial bill on Aceh's future administration.

Mahendra, responding to the proposals of several legislators who wanted non-Muslims to be given the freedom to choose under which law they would be tried, said it would only create legal uncertainty.

"Should such freedom be given, non-Muslims will certainly choose to be tried under the Criminal Code, because it carries more lenient punishment," Yusril told the hearing, held to discuss the authority of the planned Islamic Court, also known as Mahkamah Sharia.

Yusril said that in the case of adultery, non-Muslims who committed adultery with Muslims would undoubtedly opt for trial by Indonesia's penal code, because it was more lenient than stoning or other forms of corporal punishment stipulated under Islamic Law.

A number of factions, such as the Christian-based Prosperous Peace Party (PDS) and the Buddhist inspired Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), have proposed that non-Muslims be given the freedom to choose under which law they would be tried for ordinary crimes.

Yusril said later in the hearing that non-Muslims could be exempted for trial by the Islamic Court only in cases related to domestic matters, such as distribution of wealth as well as business and monetary issues.

He added details about the Islamic Court would await the drawing up of more bylaws. "It is these that will decide who will be tried under which law," Yusril said. The court is one of the key elements of the current bill on Aceh's administration required under the landmark peace accord signed last August between separatist rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government that ended a 29 year conflict in the province.

Discussions about the Islamic Court and other substantial issues in the Aceh bill have resulted in the Indonesian parliament and the government failing to meet the original March 30 deadline for its passage.

Legislators now agree that two more months is a realistic target, especially as there is no longer the intensity of early deliberations. Bylaws dealing with adultery, alcoholism, gambling and obscenity are already on the statute books.

Lawmaker Permadi of the PDI-P faction, who is also a member of the special committee, alleged the simmering down of the debates was connected to payments worth 181,550 dollars made to committee members by the interior ministry

Permadi, speaking during a meeting with representatives from Aceh Leuser Antara and Aceh Barat Selatan districts, who are seeking the establishment of a new province covering these areas, said the handouts were intended to expedite the deliberation of the bill and "silence" previously vociferous opponents
Aki/Jakarta Post)

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