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  1. ITV Report

Brunei introduces death by stoning for homosexual sex

Brunei will roll-out full Sharia law today, where people who have gay sex could be punished with death by stoning.

The country's leader, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has supported the strict Islamic teachings and insisted his nation was a "fair and happy place".

"I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger," Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said, without mentioning the new laws.

What are the new laws and when will they come into force?

Today will see a full roll-out of Sharia law across the small south-east Asian country, with crimes such as rape, adultery, robbery and insulting the Prophet Muhammed all punishable by death.

Theft could be punishable by the amputation of a hand, while women who receive abortions could be flogged in public.

Apostates, or those who abandon Islam, could also face the death penalty.

Trying to "persuade, tell or encourage" Muslim children under 18 to follow another religion has also been made a criminal offence.

Other less severe punishments include fines or jail sentences for indecent behaviour, failure to attend Friday prayers, and for pregnancies out of wedlock.

Homosexuality was already punishable with 10 years in prison in Brunei. Credit: PA

How will the punishments be introduced?

The code was formally published in 2013 but Brunei has been gradually rolling out the strict policies over several years, with the most controversial being introduced last.

On Saturday, the Brunei government released a statement on its website saying the new legislation will be introduced.

It remains unclear whether the Government will introduce the legislation as although capital punishment has been part of Brunei's legal system for years, the country has not carried out a state execution since 1957.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is expected to make a statement today to formally announce the introduction of the laws.

Why are they introducing the laws now?

Homosexuality was already outlawed in Brunei and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

But the sultan, who lives in a large golden-domed palace and is one of the richest men in the world, has supported the penal laws since the 1990s.

Some analysts claim he is trying to shore-up his Islamic credentials and strengthen his grip on the country, which has been badly hit by recession in recent years.

However it appears as if he does have some support for the new legislation.

There has been no vocal opposition to the new penalties in Brunei, where the sultan rules as head of state with full executive authority. Public criticism of his policies is extremely rare in the country.

What has the reaction from Brunei been like?

Shahiran S Shahrani Md, a 40-year-old gay Bruneian seeking asylum in Canada, said the effect of the new laws has already had an impact.

Shahiran revealed he fled the country after he was charged with sedition for a Facebook post which criticised the government. Under Phase One of the Sharia law, he could have been imprisoned for 10 years.

He explained that despite the strict punishments being introduced, the burden of proof for someone to be stoned to death requires four people to witness the act, which has eased the fears of some Bruneians. Despite this, it also makes it easier for other strict punishments such as imprisonment easier for the government.

He told ITV News: "People are afraid. People are worried that after April 3, the police will make fake profiles and try to entice people to meet them.

"Because of that, there is a fear... people have always been suspicious of each other but now that's growing."

Despite the growing sense of fear, he said many people are determined not to be forced out of the country.

"Many people are worried about where they will fit in," he said. "They don't see where they can be happy. This is there home and where their families are."

One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "Everyone is affected. It's just going to be a horrible life living there, even if you're not LGBT."

George and Amal Clooney have spoken out against the new laws. Credit: AP

Who has spoken out against the punishments?

The introduction of Sharia punishment has sparked widespread international condemnation.

Human rights group Amnesty International has slammed the punishments as “vicious”.

German diplomats expressed concern at the introduction of Sharia law penalties and appealed to Brunei’s ambassador to “abide by existing international human rights obligations”, the ministry.

US government state spokesman Robert Palladino urged the country to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 2015”.

He added: "Brunei’s decision to implement Phases Two and Three of the Sharia Penal Code and associated penalties runs counter to its international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

American actor George Clooney, who is married to prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, called recently for a boycott of luxury hotels in Europe and the United States linked to Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Talkshow host Ellen DeGeneres also called for a boycott of the hotels on the hotels on her Twitter account, calling for people to "rise up". Musician Elton John has also echoed calls for people to boycott the sultan's hotels.

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