Brunei court sentences gay defendant Shahiran in absentia

Shahiransheriffudin bin Shahrani Muhammad. Image: @talkingaloud Instagram

A court in Brunei yesterday sentenced Shahiran, ‘the Brunei refugee’, to eighteen months jail for sedition. Shahiran now lives in Canada after the government there granted him asylum in 2018.

The case was only the second use of the sedition law in Brunei and the first full trial of a sedition case in the country.

Senior Magistrate Lailatul Zubaidah Hj Mohd Hussain sentenced Shahiran.

She said she believed he intended to “bring about hatred or contempt, or excite disaffection against His Majesty the Sultan.”

In 2017, Brunei brought charges against Shahiran for a Facebook post critical of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA).

Get a halal cert or get fined. Halal certs will cost you fucking loads like hiring up to 5/6 new people. Small home-based businesses ARE NOT EXEMPTED.
Fuck you MORA, Fuck you.

The initial charges meant he faced a two-year jail term and an A$5,340 fine.

Shahiran faced increased jail time

However, the authorities then added additional charges of insulting Islamic law and the Islamic Council. Those additional charges increased the potential jail term to eight years and a fine of A$36,300.

At that stage, Shahiran fled the country and made his way to Canada.

After he fled, the government took no further action in the case against him. Bruneian law requires the presence of the defendant for sentencing. Despite that, on 7 December Chief Justice Steven Chong authorised the Magistrate’s Court to hand down a judgement in absentia.

Speculation in Brunei suggests that happened in response to recent social media postings.

A few weeks ago Shahiran posted a comment critical of the government to Instagram.

I only have so many fucks to give. So I reserve this one to idiots who think enshrining the killing of people by stoning or throwing them from a high place is a humane punishment under the law #brunei #saudiarabia #afghanistan #qatar

Then, a week ago, he posted a reference to the Sultan of Brunei’s brother Prince Jefri. Jefri stole around $15 billion from the country’s sovereign wealth fund a couple of decades ago.

Shahiran on Instagram


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Brunei and Sharia Law

Brunei faced global LGBTIQ-led protests and boycotts following the introduction of religious laws including the death penalty earlier this year. International outrage only died down after the Sultan announced a moratorium on the death penalty.

Brunei is an autocracy, with the Sultan all-powerful.

It seems he intended the introduction of Sharia law to give him more power as his ability to bribe the populace to accept his dictatorship declines.

Brunei experienced declining oil revenues in recent years. Unlike other oil-producing countries, it appears the regime gave little thought to the post-oil future and squandered much of the sovereign wealth of the country on personal excess.

The Minister for Religious Affairs perhaps played a role in the timing of the introduction of the laws.

At the time, his son and daughter-in-law faced trial for stealing millions from Brunei government coffers in their positions as judges. That trial continues with judgement expected any time now… or never.

Brunei today

Despite the moratorium on the death penalty, Brunei continues to cane its citizens. Magistrates regularly add a few strokes of the cane to sentences handed down in the civil courts.

Thus far, no LGBTIQ citizens have faced religious courts on sexual charges.

It will happen.

More on  Brunei, its despotic Sultan and the introduction of Sharia Law

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