A Malaysian court sent six men to jail for a month today and will try four other people over a nudist gathering that triggered outrage in the Muslim-majority country, a defence lawyer said.
The four other people – all Malaysian, and including three women – who are contesting the charges, were freed on bail by the court in the northern state of Penang, police said.
The defendants were arrested for staging what they called the “Nude Sports Games 2014” on May 30.
The event’s existence surfaced when a video by the organisers appeared on social media in early August and went viral.
It shows participants engaged in a range of activities on a secluded Penang beach, including dancing, body painting, and relay races, all in the nude.
In one scene, a nude woman rides horseback on a man, while in another, a naked woman crawls over three nude men lying next to each other in the sand.
The six men – five Malaysians and a Singaporean – were jailed after pleading guilty to charges of public obscenity, said lawyer S. Thangaveloo, who represents Singaporean defendant Loh Kok Hong.
“They were all sentenced to one month jail and fined 5,000 ringgit [about HK$12,300],” Thangaveloo said.
Mohamad Jalaluddin, the investigating police officer in the case: “We are still hunting for five more individuals, one each from Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and two Myanmar nationals.”
The gathering has been condemned by Muslim conservatives, but also many non-Muslims, and triggered heated online exchanges between critics and supporters of the nudists.
About 60 per cent of Malaysia’s nearly 30 million people are Muslim ethnic Malays.
Demands for greater freedom of expression in the multi-cultural country have increasingly bumped up against conservative attitudes among Muslims and the country’s long-time authoritarian government.
In a separate case, a male and female model were fined this week after taking part in a public photo shoot in the northern city of Ipoh wearing only their underwear.