KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Two Canadians and two other Westerners have reportedly been released after pleading guilty to a charge related to a group of tourists posing naked on Malaysia’s highest mountain on May 30.
Media reports early Friday said Saskatchewan siblings Danielle and Lindsey Peterson, along with a British woman and a Dutch man, pleaded guilty to a charge of committing obscene acts in a public place.
The four – who avoided trial by pleading guilty – were reportedly sentenced to three days in jail from the time of arrest on June 9, meaning they already served their time.
The Guardian newspaper says they were each fined 5,000 Malaysian ringgit, or about $1,368.
The newspaper says Danielle Peterson arrived in court handcuffed to British tourist Eleanor Hawkins while Lindsey Peterson arrived handcuffed to Dutchman Dylan Snel.
The four were allegedly part of a group of 10 tourists who posed naked on Mount Kinabalu just days before an earthquake killed 18 climbers on the mountain.
The Malay Mail online news portal said the court was told the group of 10 had challenged each other to see who could remain naked the longest in the cold.
They ignored a plea by their mountain guide not to strip, it said.
It quoted defence lawyer Ronny Cham as saying the four were young people whose generation was accorded more freedom and liberties. He said they had suffered enough trauma and that extensive international news coverage of the incident has served as deterrent for others.
Prosecutor Jamil Aripin agreed that there was no link between the earthquake and their act but said it had outraged the local community, The Malay Mail said.
The magnitude-5.9 earthquake sent rocks and boulders raining down the trekking routes on the 4,095-meter-high mountain in Sabah on Borneo island. The victims were nine Singaporeans, six Malaysians and a Filipino, a Chinese and a Japanese national.
The quake damaged roads and buildings, including schools and a hospital on Sabah’s west coast. It also broke one of the twin rock formations on the mountain known as the “Donkey’s Ears.”
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan has blamed the tragedy on the foreigners for showing “disrespect to the sacred mountain” by posing naked at the peak. He has said a special ritual will be conducted to “appease the mountain spirit.”