Banda Aceh. Shariah Police officers who are suspects in Friday’s alleged gang rape of a 20-year-old university student may find some respite from knowing they will be charged under the Criminal Code and not the province’s Islamic law .
The controversial Qanun Jinayat, Aceh’s set of local bylaws passed to replace parts of the Criminal Code with aspects of Islamic law for Acehnese Muslims, was passed in September by Aceh’s legislative council. Governor Irwandi Yusuf, however, refused to endorse it after local and international human rights groups spoke out against it because of what they called cruel and unusual punishments, such as stoning to death for adultery.
“The suspects will be charged under Article 285 of the Criminal Code,” Langsa Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Yosi Muhammartha said on Thursday. “I do not work based on any qanun, only the Criminal Code.”
Article 285 carries a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison for rape.
A single signature, or the lack thereof, has effectively prevented the officers from being charged under Article 29 of the Qanun Jinayat, which stipulates that those convicted of rape can receive 100 to 200 lashes, or a minimum prison sentence of 100 months and maximum of 200 months.
The three officers allegedly took turns raping a 20-year-old student in a detention cell in the early hours of Friday.
The qanun imposes harsh punishments, including stoning and lashing, for offenses such as adultery, premarital and homosexual sex. The bylaws also mandate corporal punishment for rapists, child molesters, drinkers of alcohol and gamblers.
The regulations strictly police people’s interactions with members of the opposite sex who are not their relatives or spouses.
Teungku Faisal Ali, secretary general of Aceh’s Daya Ulema Association, however, said the suspects should face the maximum penalty in accordance with the Islamic code for humiliating the Shariah Police.
“They should have been role models in upholding Shariah, but what they did marred the symbol of implementation of Shariah because they are part of it,” he said.
“Aceh’s ulema condemn this shameful act. We hope [the suspects] will be tried with the Qanun Jinayat — that is the most appropriate law to apply.
“Their duty is to guard the morals of the Acehnese, but they have deplorable morals themselves, so it’s only fitting that they be given the harshest sentence so the public and the outside world will see that Islamic law is applied in an indiscriminate fashion in Aceh.”
Marzuki Abdullah, commander of Aceh’s 1,500-member Shariah Police, however said it was a “one-off” case.
“The incident occurred when the officers were off-duty. They had arrested a pair of fornicators and taken them to the police station for re-education,” Marzuki said, adding that after “re-educating” the couple, the three officers left only to return to rape the girl.
“They will also be lashed and may be discharged from their unit,” he said, without elaborating on the possible number of lashings to be handed down to the suspects.