KOTA KINABALU: Celebrity preacher Ebit Lew who was slapped with 11 charges, including sexual harassment of a woman, at the Tenom court on Friday believes that he is a victim of slander and ill-will.
The 37-year-old said he feels that the accusations thrown at him were to tarnish his image and credibility as a charity worker.
“I believe someone or a group of people had planned for this, I will get through it and I see this as a test from God,” he said when met outside the Tenom district office after he was charged at the circuit court.
Ebit said the plan to come to Sabah to conduct charity works during this time had been made earlier, and that he was only told about these charges against him a few days ago.
“I am shocked because we are here to do charity work, not to go to court,” he said.
“So I look at this as a test from God. It will not bring me down or stop me from carrying out community work here,” said Ebit, whose full name is Ebit Irawan Ibrahim Lew.
His lawyer Mohamed Zairi Zainal Abidin said the court had fixed April 20 to April 23 for case mention and the hearing to be held sometime in June.
Ebit was accused of among others, sending lewd text messages and photos via WhatsApp to a woman between March and June, 2021.
Ebit, who was charged under Section 509 of the Penal Code, pleaded not guilty to all 11 charges. If convicted, the 37-year-old preacher could face up to five years in jail or fine, or both.
Magistrate Nur Asyraf Zolhani fixed April 20-23 as the trial date. The court also released Ebit after he posted RM1,000 bail for each of the charges, with two sureties.
Ilmami Ahmad, who appeared for the prosecution, was assisted by deputy public prosecutor Azreen Yas Mohamad Ramli.
Police had initially investigated Ebit under Section 509 of the Penal Code, Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955 and Section 23 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 following reports by several individuals alleging that the preacher had committed sexual harassment.
Ebit was called by police on Aug 19 last year to give a statement over a sexual harassment video linked to him, which he described as “brutal slander” against him.
Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department director Abdul Jalil Hassan in a statement confirmed the charges under Section 509 of the Penal Code.
This is in relation to lewd images and messages sent via WhatsApp with the intention to intrude upon the privacy of a person.
“All the charges were for offences allegedly committed in Tenom, Sabah, between March and June last year, against a Malay woman.
“Upon conviction, the accused can be sentenced to prison for up to five years, or fined, or both,” said Abdul Jalil.
Asked whether Ebit will face other charges, he said police are probing another sexual harassment claim by the same woman.
“We will submit the investigation papers to the deputy public prosecutor for the next course of action after the probe is completed. We will investigate all angles including slander.
“The police urges all parties to refrain from making any speculations or provocation to ensure a smooth proceeding,” he said.
Ebit arrived at the Circuit Court in the Tenom District Office in a Toyota Vellfire at around 9am, accompanied by several other individuals.
Last July, Ebit, known for his humanitarian missions, lodged a police report following various allegations of sexual harassment that surfaced on social media.