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Hard-line Indonesian police shave punkers’ mohawks

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BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — Police in Indonesia’s most conservative province stripped away body piercings and buzzed off spiky mohawks from 65 youths detained at a punk-rock concert because of their perceived threats to Islamic values.

The teens and young men were also stripped of dog-collar necklaces and chains and then thrown in pools of water for "spiritual" cleansing, local police chief Iskandar Hasan said Wednesday.

After replacing their "disgusting" clothes, he handed each a toothbrush and barked "use it."

It was the latest effort by authorities to promote strict moral values in Aceh, the only province in this secular but predominantly Muslim nation of 240 million people to have imposed Islamic laws.

Here, adultery is punishable by stoning to death. Homosexuals have been thrown in jail or lashed in public with rattan canes. Women are told, wearing headscarves is a must, but please, no tight pants.

Punk rockers have complained for months about harassment, but Saturday’s roundup at a concert attended by more than 100 people was by far the most dramatic.

Baton-wielding police broke up the concert, scattering young music lovers, many of whom had traveled from other parts of the sprawling archipelagic nation.

Dozens were loaded into vans and brought to a police detention center in the hills, 30 miles (60 kilometers) from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, for rehabilitation, training in military-style discipline and religious classes, including Quran recitation.

They will be held there for at least 10 days, after which they’ll be returned to their parents.

Twenty-year-old punker, Fauzan, was mortified.

"Why? Why my hair?!" he said, pointing to his cleanly shaven head. "We didn’t hurt anyone. This is how we’ve chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?"

Hasan insisted he’d done nothing wrong.

"We’re not torturing anyone," he said. "We’re not violating human rights. We’re just trying to put them back on the right moral path."

However, Nur Kholis, a national human commissioner, deplores the detention, saying police have to explain what kinds of criminal laws violated by the youngsters.

"Otherwise, they violated people’s right of gathering and expression," Kholis said and promised to investigate it.

Aceh was given semi-autonomy as part of a peace deal with Indonesia’s central government after the province agreed to end a separatist struggle in 2005.

Indonesia’s 200 million Muslims practice a moderate form of the faith, but bans on drinking alcohol, gambling and kissing in public, among other activities, have been enforced by some more conservative local governments in recent years.

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