Gay couple condemned to public flogging by Indonesian Shariah court

A sharia court in Indonesia has sentenced two gay men to public caning for the first time, further undermining the country's moderate image after a leading Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy.

Two young gay men have been sentenced by a religious court in the Indonesian province of Aceh to receive 85 strokes of the cane during a public ceremony.

The men were caught together in bed in March by thugs who burst into the boarding house where they were staying, in provincial capital Banda Aceh.

"The defendants are proven to have committed sodomy and are found guilty", the presiding judge, Khairil Jamal, said in a statement.

For some time now, hostility to the small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Indonesia has been growing, and several ministers have publicly delivered homophobic remarks.

The group had called on Indonesia's authorities to release men who face "public torture for the "crime" of their alleged sexual orientation".

The two men were found guilty of gay sex under Aceh's sharia-inspired laws.

Horrifying footage shows one of the distressed men, who was completely naked, speaking to his family on a phone, while telling one of the vigilantes: 'Please brother, please stop'.

Dede Oetomo, a longtime leader of the Indonesian gay rights movement, said that Acehnese activists were "all scared".

A panel of three judges found the pair guilty of performing homosexual activities together and sentenced them to 85 lashes with a cane, Efe news reported.

However, experts say Indonesia is becoming increasingly conservative, with large anti-LGBT protests in Jakarta and passionate reactions to allegations of blasphemy commonplace in recent years.

The sentencing of the couple coincidentally came on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

"This is barbaric - this is another low point for Aceh, and also for Indonesia", Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, Andreas Harsono, said.

Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia allowed to practice sharia law, a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a war with separatists, but other some other areas have introduced sharia-style by-laws.

Caning is one of the most brutal punishments under the law, which is also given to those who drink alcohol, and skip Friday prayers.

Over 300 people were reportedly caned for such offenses in 2016.

  • Jon Douglas