Posing nude
Mount Kinabalu is considered sacred by Borneo's Kadazan Dusun tribeThe Star/Asia News Network

Four foreigners – two Canadian siblings, a British woman and a Dutchman – have been detained by police on suspicion of posing naked on Mount Kinabalu, a peak considered sacred by the locals, before an earthquake killed 18 hikers and injured several others.

The four, who were presented in court on 10 June, will be detained for four days, pending police investigation. They could be charged with indecent behaviour, Sabah's police commissioner Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said, according to the BBC.

The four tourists taken to court

The British woman, identified as Eleanor Hawkins from Derby, was detained at the Tawau airport in Sabah on 9 June while trying to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur while the 23-year-old Canadian, his 22 year old sister, and 23 year old Dutchman surrendered themselves at a police station on the same day.

Police are still looking for six other tourists, believed to have undressed and posed for photos on Mount Kinabalu on 30 May, a growing internet trend to take nude pictures in famous places. The tourists are also reported to have urinated on the mountain.

Mount Kinabalu is considered sacred by Borneo's Kadazan Dusun tribe, which believes it is a resting place for spirts.

The Guardian newspaper quoted Tim Hawkins, the father of Eleanor as saying that he was extremely worried about her. "I have got every faith in [Malaysia's] judicial system. I just hope they don't make an example of them."

According to the Straits Times, the four face up to three months' jail, a fine or both, if they are charged and found guilty by the court.

An inter-faith cleansing ritual to take place at the mountain

Sabah Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun said that the idea that the tourists' actions had caused the earthquake was "misconstrued" but said their actions were against the people of the largest tribe in Sabah. "The mountain is a revered and sacred site," he said, according to the Straits Times.

A traditional inter-faith cleansing ritual is expected to take place at the mountain site soon involving Muslims, Christians and tribal leaders, according to Masidi.

Meanwhile, a Canadian nudist claiming to be one of the 10 tourists who had stripped at the peak of Mount Kinabalu, has angered locals on social media with postings asking the locals not to subject him or others to their cultural and religious beliefs, calling them "archaic and idiotic", according to the New Straits Times.

Of the 18 killed in the earthquake, seven students and three adults were from Singapore.