KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Four tourists who have been detained for allegedly stripping on top of Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu are expected to be charged Friday (June 12).
Sabah Criminal Investigation Department Chief Datuk Salehuddin Abdul Rahman said British student Eleanor Hawkins, 24, and Dutch national Dylan Snel, 23, with Canadian siblings, Lindsey, 23 and Danielle Petersen, 22, will be charged at a magistrates court in Kota Kinabalu in the afternoon but did not give the exact time.
The four are expected to be brought to the court from police lockup and produced before Ranau magistrate Dzul Helmy to face the charge.
They have been remanded since Wednesday under Section 294(a) of the Penal Code for committing an obscene act in a public place.
Police have said two of them had confessed to stripping on the mountain while the remaining six have not been able to be positively identified as they did not provide their full particulars when registering at Sabah Parks before their climb.
If convicted, they face a maximum three months' jail term or a fine, or both.
Ms Hawkins was arrested at the Tawau airport on Tuesday and flown to Kota Kinabalu. Mr Snel together with Ms Lindsey and Ms Danielle surrendered themselves to the Karamunsing police station the same evening.
The four were among 10 tourists mostly Europeans who had climbed the mountain together with a group of 27 tourists on May 29.
A photo of 10 of them stripping on the mountain on May 30 went viral on the social media and in the aftermath of June 5 earthquake, local native leaders have blamed the earthquake on the antics of the tourists.
The indigenous people believe that Mount Kinabalu is sacred and any act of disrespect to the spirits of the mountain may result in bad omen.
Ethnic leaders are preparing rituals to appease the spirits of the mountain this weekend.
Although the four are already being charged with the criminal charges, they could still face further action in the Native Court for allegedly stripping and urinating on the mountain.
Sabah Law Association president Datuk John Sikayun said on Friday if complaints were lodged with the Native Court, action could still be taken as it had separate jurisdiction under State native customary laws.
"There is no such thing as double jeopardy when it comes to customary laws," he said.
They said that under Native Court practices, those found guilty would be ordered to pay sogit (compensation) which could be in the form of buffaloes.
Ranau District Chief Mohammad Din Solinggong said they had received complaints from several village chiefs about the stripping incident on the mountain.
"We cannot simply proceed with the case without an in-depth study. If we do, it may cause us further embarrassment as this has already attracted international attention," he said.
In the aftermath of the June 5 earthquake, local leaders including Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who is also Huguan Siou or Kadazandusun paramount chief, said that Mount Kinabalu was sacred to Sabah's indigenous people.
Mr Pairin said they believed that the earthquake, which killed 18 people, could be linked to the uncouth behaviour of the foreigners on the mountain.