MALAYSIA - Three young Malaysian handball players (above) have been charged with raping an official at a national tournament, a government lawyer said on Thursday.
The alleged gang rape of the 19-year-old victim has sparked widespread public anger and officials have demanded tough punishment for the perpetrators.
The victim was a communications liaison officer for the Federal Territories girls' handball team at the recent inter-state Malaysia Games, AFP reported.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tan Gin Han said the court had set Aug 20 for a judge to announce a possible trial date.
The three suspects, who are aged between 18 and 19, pleaded not guilty, he added.
They were freed on bail despite objections from the prosecutor, defence lawyer Suraj Singh said.
The incident allegedly occurred in the early hours of July 4 in a room at a games village during the competition.
It was reported that the victim was semi-conscious at the time.
She claimed she was pinned down on a bed in a dormitory at the Games Village.
The Star newspaper reported that before the alleged rape, the young woman had left the games village to have alcoholic drinks with several handball players.
If found guilty, the three accused face up to 20 years in jail and whipping by a cane.
Mr Peter Velappan, former Asian Football Confederation general secretary, said the "outrageous" incident was the first of its kind in Malaysian sports and had tarnished the country.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, meanwhile, accused Federal Territories handball team officials of joining players in their drinking session before the alleged rape.
Mr Sieh Koh Chi, secretary-general of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, said he was "shocked" by the incident.
"Swift investigations must be carried out," he said.