Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah has extended a moratorium on the death penalty to cover new laws punishing gay sex and adultery with death by stoning.

The announcement comes in response to what the Sultan said are “misperceptions” of the new laws, which came into effect in early April.

A global outcry about the small, wealthy nation’s adoption of a sharia penal code saw a protest held in Brisbane, and high-profile celebrities like George Clooney and Elton John call for a boycott of Brunei-owned international hotels.

The Queensland government also scrapped a potential deal with the state-owned Royal Brunei Airlines over the laws.

While the death penalty is allowed for some crimes in Brunei, the country has had a moratorium on carrying out the sentence since the 1990s.

“I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions with regard to the implementation of the SPCO,” the Sultan said in a speech.

“However, we believe that once these have been cleared the merit of the law will be evident.

“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.

“This will also be applied to cases under the SPCO which provides a wider scope for remission.”

Even without enforcement of the death penalty, homosexuality is still illegal in Brunei and carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

The Sultan insisted that the laws “aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country.”

“They are also crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the country as well as the privacy of individuals,” he said.

Matthew Woolfe, founder of human rights group The Brunei Project, told CNN that LGBTI people in Brunei could still be punished with fines, whipping or jail.

“There is nothing stopping the Brunei Government from lifting the moratorium at any time,” Woolfe said.

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