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Brunei: Controversial Sharia law aimed at 'prevention'

Brunei's Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof

Bandar Seri Begawan, April 12 (UITV/IANS) - Brunei has defended its move to implement Sharia law, saying it was "about prevention rather than punishment", after global condemnation of its decision to implement the strict Islamic code under which adultery and sex between men is punishable by stoning to death.

The kingdom said there would be a "high threshold" for evidence in these type of cases, suggesting punishment would be rare. The UN had called the punishments "cruel and inhuman".

In response to the UN criticism, Brunei's Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof in a statement on Thursday said that Sharia law "focuses more on prevention than punishment. Its aim is to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture rather than to punish", the BBC reported.

The statement also said that "Sharia does not criminalize based on sexual orientation or belief, including same-sex relations".

The criminalization of "adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims, particularly women", according to the statement.

It said for the maximum punishments of amputation or death to be carried out in the case of certain crimes, at least two men of "high moral standing and piety" would have to bear witness.

"These men would have to live up to 'extremely high' standards, making it (extremely) difficult to find one in this day and age," it added.

UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday that he had spoken to the Bruneian Foreign Minister who had suggested that Sharia prosecutions were, in practice, "unlikely".

Under the second phase of Sharia law that was implemented on April 3, individuals accused of certain acts will be convicted if they confess or if there were witnesses present.

Offences such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad will carry the maximum penalty of death.

Lesbian sex carries a different penalty of 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years in jail. The maximum punishment for theft is amputation.

The first phase of Sharia law was implemented in 2014.