Christian woman caned in Indonesia's Aceh province for selling alcohol

Aceh is the only Indonesian province that applies syariah law, and public canings for breaches of Islamic code happen on a regular basis and often attract huge crowds.
Aceh is the only Indonesian province that applies syariah law, and public canings for breaches of Islamic code happen on a regular basis and often attract huge crowds. PHOTO: AFP

BANDA ACEH (AFP) - An elderly Christian woman has been caned in a conservative Indonesian province for selling alcohol, the first time someone from outside the Islamic faith has been punished there under strict religious laws.

The 60-year-old was whipped nearly 30 times with a rattan cane before a crowd of hundreds in Aceh province on Tuesday (April 12), an official said, along with a couple who were subjected to 100 lashes for committing adultery.

Aceh is the only province in the predominantly Muslim country that applies syariah law, and public canings for breaches of Islamic code happen on a regular basis and often attract huge crowds.

Those caught engaging in adultery, same-sex relationships, drinking and even associating with unmarried members of the opposite sex can end up facing the cane.

Though the law once only applied to Muslims, a by-law that took effect late last year allowed syariah regulations to be applied to non-Muslims in certain situations, Mr Lili Suparli, a senior official at the Central Aceh prosecutor's office told AFP.

"This is the first case of a non-Muslim being punished under Islamic criminal by-law," he said, referring to the punishment of the Christian woman.

Aceh began implementing syariah law after being granted special autonomy in 2001, an effort by the central government in Jakarta to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.

Islamic laws have been strengthened since the province struck a peace deal with the central government in 2005.

More than 90 per cent of Indonesians describe themselves as Muslim, but the vast majority practise a moderate form of the faith.