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Brunei Moving Forward with Islamic Penal Code

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has announced that a new Islamic criminal law that could include penalties like amputation for thefts and stoning for adultery will be enforced in six months, Oct. 10, 2013.
Brunei has announced plans to move ahead with the implementation of further aspects of Islamic law into its criminal code.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said Tuesday the Sharia-compliant penal code would be phased in beginning in six months.

The code includes several harsh punishments, such as stoning for adultery, flogging for alcohol, and amputation for theft.

The punishments will apply only to Muslims, which make up two-thirds of the oil-rich, Southeast Asian nation of about 400,000 people.

The sultan, who exercises near-complete control, has for years called for the introduction of Islamic law alongside the country's civil courts.

Brunei already bans the sale of alcohol and forbids adherents of other religions from evangelizing. Islamic courts also rule over some family-related matters, such as marriage and inheritance.

Officials have promised that the new punishments would require a high burden of proof and that their application would be subject to approval by judges.

In his speech Tuesday, the sultan insisted the new rules will not change his country's relationship with other nations. Some viewed this as an assurance to foreign investors.

But the 67-year-old said the new rules should be treated as a form of "special guidance from God."

Interpretations of Islamic law vary widely throughout Muslim-majority countries where it is practiced, as there is no single document in which it is explicitly outlined.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters