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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Monday, 4 January 2010

Unmarried couples caught in Malaysia hotel raids

By Jennifer Pak
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysians celebrate New Year
Morality police targeted New Year's revellers

Fifty-two unmarried couples could face charges of sexual misconduct and jail terms after being caught in hotel rooms by Malaysia's Islamic morality police.

Scores of officers conducted raids on budget hotels on New Year's Day in the western state of Selangor.

Those detained in the early hours of New Year's Day were mainly students and young factory workers.

The Muslim couples are expected to be charged with the offence of close proximity, or Khalwat.

Under Malaysia's Islamic Sharia Law, couples who are not married to each other should not be in a secluded area or confined space, which could give rise to suspicion that they were engaged in immoral acts.

A spokesman for the Selangor State Islamic Department says they chose New Year's Day because many people are known to commit this offence when celebrating a major holiday.

If convicted, the couples could get a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine.

Sharia laws in Malaysia apply only to Muslims, who make up over half the population.



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