Richard Branson

Richard Branson has announced that he and his Virgin group of companies will boycott a hotel chain owned by the anti-gay Sultan of Brunei.

Last week, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the absolute ruler of Brunei, announced the implementation of a new Islamic sharia penal code that will allow for the stoning to death of gays and lesbians.

In a tweet, Branson said that in protest he and Virgin would boycott the international Dorchester Hotel chain, owned by Bolkiah.

“No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights,” he tweeted.

In December last year, Branson said that he would not do business in Uganda because of its “dreadful witch hunt against the gay community” and urged other businesses to do the same.

America’s Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has backed Branson’s latest move and called on others to also boycott Dorchester Hotels.

The organisation has sent letters to the leadership of several organisations that plan to host events at the Sultan’s hotels in the US.

“There are a number of hotels and venues in the Los Angeles area that aren’t owned by foreign leaders and governments that allow for the execution of its LGBT citizens,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

“We’re encouraging members of the LGBT community and our allies to consider those options instead of the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air – which are part of the Sultan’s Dorchester Collection. In addition, we’re calling on organisations that have upcoming events scheduled at these hotels to move them to other locations.”

Amnesty International said that Brunei’s new penal code, which came into effect on the 1st of May, was taking the country “back to the dark ages when it comes to human rights.”

The new code, which will run concurrently with the existing civil law system, allows for cruel and inhuman punishments including stoning to death, whipping and amputation.

The Sultan – who is also the prime minister, minister of defence, minister of finance, head of Islam, head of customs, head of the supreme commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and the inspector general of the Royal Brunei Police Force – is worth an estimated $20 billion and lives in a 1,800-room palace.

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