Brunei's new laws affect sultan's Hollywood ties

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hollywood is responding to harsh new laws in the tiny Southeast Asia nation of Brunei by boycotting the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund joined a growing list of organizations and individuals Monday refusing to do business with hotels owned by the sultan or government of Brunei. They're protesting the country's new Islamic Shariah criminal law that calls for punishing adultery, abortions and same-sex relationships with flogging and stoning.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund says it won't hold its annual Night Before the Oscar party at the hotel as it has for many years.

"We cannot condone or tolerate these harsh and repressive laws and as a result support a business owned by the sultan of Brunei or a Brunei sovereign fund associated with the government of Brunei," the fund's directors said in a statement.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who owns the Beverly Hills Hotel, has praised his country's new laws as a "great achievement."

"The decision to implement the (Shariah penal code) is not for fun but is to obey Allah's command as written in the Quran," the sultan said last week.

Brunei, a conservative country where alcohol is banned and Muslim courts already govern family affairs, began phasing in its version of Shariah that allows for penalties such as amputation for theft and stoning for adultery. Most of the punishments can be applied to non-Muslims, who account for about one-third of the 440,000 people in the oil-rich country.

The most severe punishments — flogging, amputation and stoning — are to be introduced over the next two years.

Others boycotting the Sultan's Dorchester Collection of hotels include Richard Branson's Virgin Group; the Hollywood Reporter, which traditionally holds a starry media breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel; and the Feminist Majority Foundation, which moved its annual Global Women's Rights Awards on Monday from the Beverly Hills Hotel to the nearby Hammer Museum.

Branson tweeted over the weekend that no member of his staff would stay at any Dorchester Collection hotel "until the Sultan abides by basic human rights."

Mavis Leno, co-chair with husband Jay Leno of the Global Women's Rights Awards, said the new penalties for adultery, abortion and homosexuality in Brunei "violate international law and have no place in civilized society."

Members of the Feminist Majority Foundation joined representatives from other civil rights groups Monday afternoon to picket the hotel. Jay Leno was among the protesters.

Dorchester Collection's chief executive said the hotel boycott is misdirected.

"American companies across the board are funded by foreign investment, including sovereign wealth funds," Christopher Cowdray said in a statement.

The Beverly Hills City Council is set to consider a resolution Tuesday calling on Brunei to divest its ownership is the historic hotel.

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

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