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Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, center. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said Sunday that the country will extend its moratorium on its sweeping new interpretation of Sharia law, which punishes homosexual people with death by stoning if found guilty of engaging in sexual intercourse, amid backlash from celebrities and human rights groups around the world, Reuter reports.

"I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions with regard to the implementation of the [law]. 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 [law] which provides a wider scope for remission."

Context: Homosexuality is already illegal in Brunei, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. And as Reuters notes, "Some crimes already command the death penalty in Brunei, including premeditated murder and drug trafficking, but no executions have been carried out since the 1990s." The interpretation of Islamic law that went into effect on April 3 prohibits sodomy, adultery and rape.

Go deeper

8 Senate Democrats vote against adding $15 minimum wage to COVID relief

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Eight Democratic senators on Friday voted against Sen. Bernie Sanders' amendment to ignore a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian and add a $15 minimum wage provision to the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

The state of play: The vote was held open for hours on Friday afternoon — even after every senator had voted — due to a standoff in negotiations over the next amendments that the Senate will take up.

CDC: Easing mask mandates led to higher COVID cases and deaths

Customer at a supermarket chain in Austin, Texas. Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

Easing mask restrictions and on-site dining have increased COVID-19 cases and deaths, according to a study out Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The report's findings converge with actions from governors this week easing mask mandates and announcing plans to reopen nonessential businesses like restaurants.