JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – In the latest crackdown dozens of men, including several foreigners, were arrested in a raid of a gay sauna in Indonesia’s capital, police said Sunday, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face increased hostility in the world’s most-populous Muslim nation.
Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said Friday’s raid in downtown Jakarta will lead to seven people being charged under Indonesia’s pornography law, including the sauna’s owner and staffers. They face penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines.
Yuwono said the other 51 men will be released if they are found to not be criminals or carrying drugs.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia except in Aceh province, but the country’s LGBT community has come under siege recently. Police have set up a special task force to investigate activities by gays and a case before the country’s top court is seeking to criminalize homosexual sex as well as dish out capital punishment for any convictions regarding gay behaviour.
A coalition of legal reform groups condemned Friday’s raid and “arbitrary” arrests, as it did a similar raid in May when police detained 141 men for questioning. During that incident, the coalition said police violated the rights of those arrested for photographing them naked and facilitating the spread of those images on social media.
“We treated them well,” Yuwono said of Friday’s raid. “They came out from the scene with proper clothes and their faces were covered.”
He said police were still working to identify all of the men and question witnesses.
The United Nations has previously called on Indonesian authorities to release people detained on the basis of their sexual orientation and to combat anti-gay stigma in the country.