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Sharia law was applied throughout Brunei following today’s decree by dictatorial Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
Imposition of Sharia law means that residents face conviction by Islamic courts for their crimes. Most laws will also apply to non-Muslims.
“I place my faith in and am grateful to Allah the almighty to announce that tomorrow Thursday May 1 2014 will see the enforcement of Sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases,” the monarch announced.
The first phase imposes fines or jail sentences for “crimes” ranging from pregnancy outside marriage and propagating other religions to failure to perform Friday prayers.
A second phase will come into effect after a year, punishing those who steal or consume alcohol with whipping and amputations.
The final stage will take effect in two years and will use the death penalty, possibly by stoning, for offences of adultery, sodomy or insulting the Koran or the prophet Mohammed.
Implementation of Sharia sparked concerns over the rights of minorities, as about 20 per cent of Brunei residents are non-Muslim.
Most of them follow Buddhist, Christian or indigenous belief systems.
Chinese make up the largest ethnic minority at 10 per cent of the population, while the majority Malays make up 65 per cent.
Brunei is also home to 30,000 mostly Catholic Filipino migrant workers and many Western oil workers.
UN human rights high commissioner Rupert Colville expressed concern over the revised penal code, warning that applying the death penalty “for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law.”
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