Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said Sunday said that gay citizens engaging in sexual acts won’t be punished with the death penalty, marking one of the first times that the authoritarian leader has caved to intense international pressure. On April 3, France 24 reports, the nation shocked the world by rolling out a law, part of the Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO), that would impose the death penalty—including stoning—as punishment for sodomy, adultery, and rape. George Clooney and Elton John publicly bashed the country for its regressive stance on homosexuality, and led boycotts of the sultan’s luxe hotels. Bolkiah defended the law on Sunday, claiming that it “aim[s] to ensure peace and harmony of the country” and is “crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the country.” But, he said that he would not use the death penalty to back the SCPO. “As evident for more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law,” he said. “This will also be applied to cases under the SPCO which provides a wider scope for remission."
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