Malaysian lawmaker in trouble over polygamy

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A ruling party lawmaker and his second wife pleaded guilty Tuesday to entering into a polygamous marriage without official consent amid a debate in Malaysia over Islamic morality among politicians.

Lawmaker Bung Mokhtar Radin and actress Zizie Ezette A. Samad pleaded guilty in a lower Islamic Shariah court in central Selangor state to getting married without the consent of a registrar, said a court official, who declined to be named due to protocol.

Polygamy — although not widely practiced — is legal among Malaysia's roughly 20 million Muslims, provided marriages are registered in an Islamic court.

Bung, 50, and Zizie, who is in her early 30s, married in December last year — confirming monthlong speculation in the local press of their liaison. Zizie has been quoted by The Star as praising Bung's first wife as a "very good" woman.

Each faces a possible 1,000-ringgit ($300) fine and jail sentence of up to six months. Sentencing has been set for May 18. Five friends and relatives pleaded guilty to abetting Bung. They face the same penalty as Bung and Zizie, said the couple's lawyer, Amli Embong.

Muslim men can marry up to four wives under the country's Islamic law, which governs civil matters for Muslims. Non-Muslims, who account for about a third of Malaysia's population, are not subject to Islamic law.

Morality among public officials recently became a hot topic in Malaysia after an opposition candidate for Parliament acknowledged consuming alcohol in the past. Muslims in Malaysia are banned from drinking alcohol. They can face fines, jail terms and caning if found guilty of the offense.

Zaid Ibrahim, who is running for Parliament in a special election on Sunday, made the admission last weekend. He said he has repented but added that ruling party coalition members were guilty of doing the same thing.

Eds: CORRECTS numbers of Muslims in Malaysia to 20 million in graf 3; UPDATES with lawyer's comments.