No sympathy for Australians who stripped in Malaysia, minister says

Spectators with swimwear bearing a Malaysian flag during the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang on October 2.

Story highlights

  • Australians must take responsibility for their actions, says Foreign Minister
  • The nine men have been charged on two counts and are due in court Thursday

(CNN)Australia's Foreign Minister has offered little sympathy to the nine men arrested for stripping to briefs sporting the Malaysian flag at the Grand Prix on Sunday.

"It's always disappointing to see this kind of incident and it's no excuse to say that, 'oh well this would just be seen as boisterous behavior or a minor matter in Australia,'" Julie Bishop said in an interview with CNN affiliate, Seven Network.
    The men, aged between 25 and 29, are facing charges of indecent behavior in a public area and bad behavior that could cause alarm to the public, according to Sepang police chief Abdul Aziz Ali.
    The former only carries a small fine, but the latter could land the Aussies in jail for up to six months. They are due to appear in court Thursday morning, said Aziz Ali.
    Bishop stressed that while Australia could offer consular support, the matter would be handled by the Malaysian legal system.
    "Australians shouldn't assume that the Australian Government can interfere in the legal proceedings of another country. The legal proceedings will have to take their course," she said.

    'Budgie smugglers'

    Malaysian police arrested the Australian men Sunday after they stripped down to reveal underwear emblazoned with the Malaysian flag at the country's Grand Prix.
    This picture taken on October 2, 2016, shows spectators with swimwear bearing a Malaysian flag posing for pictures during the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.
    The Aussies were allegedly intoxicated and celebrating Daniel Ricciardo's fourth career F1 win, according to Seven Network, when they removed their clothes and revealed their tight briefs -- colloquially known as "budgie smugglers."
    Malaysia's Deputy Home Minister, Nur Jazlan Mohamed, told reporters Tuesday that while the country welcomed visitors, it did not appreciate the intention to "commit indecent acts to embarrass" Malaysians. "I think that's not how visitors should respond to our good treatment," said the minister.
    Photographs of the men went viral on Sunday drawing an angry response from Malaysians online, who felt the Australians' behavior was "tantamount to insulting the country, state media said.

    Government adviser arrested

    Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chief executive officer, Datuk Razlan Razali, also condemned the spectators' behavior.
    He accused the men of being "foreigners with no sense of cultural sensitivity or respect," saying they deserved to be investigated and "locked up."
    "It embarrasses their own country as well, and gives Australians a bad name," Razali told the New Straits Times.
    To add insult to injury, Australian media reported Tuesday that a government adviser was among those arrested. According to the Advertiser newspaper, one of the group is a defense innovation adviser to the Minster for Defense Industry, Christopher Pyne.
    Pyne is a well-known figure in Australian politics and a frontbencher within Prime Minister Turnbull's government.

    Not tolerated

    Authorities take a firm stance on public indecency in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
    In May 2015, four foreign hikers were arrested for stripping naked and posing for photos on Mount Kinabalu, a Malaysian mountain that is considered sacred.
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    Local residents said their behavior had angered the spirit of the mountain and caused an earthquake that killed 16 people.
    The backpackers were fined 5,000 Malaysian ringgit, about $1,332 each, and sentenced to three days in prison after pleading guilty to "committing an obscene act."