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Last Updated: Monday, 16 April 2007, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Row over Maldives 'custody' death
Photo which opposition says shows Maldives police assaulting its leader
The MDP says this photo shows police assaulting one of its leaders
Tensions have been high in the Maldives after weekend protests over the death of a man who opposition parties allege was killed in police custody.

Hussain Salah's body was pulled from a harbour in the capital on Sunday.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) says he was beaten to death in custody, a charge officials deny.

The Maldives government has been under pressure over its human rights record in recent years and legalised opposition parties only in 2005.

Negotiations between the authorities and the opposition saw a number of opposition figures released from jail last year.

But the MDP now says preparations for landmark multiparty elections due in 2008 are taking too long.

'Violent mob'

The government says Mr Salah was arrested on drugs charges and died after he was released on Friday.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
President Gayoom is accused of introducing reform too slowly

It said "unruly crowds" of opposition supporters had roamed the streets. There had been a number of arrests.

"MDP supporters also created unrest... A number of police constables were injured as the violent mob hurled stones and projectiles, and torched public property. Some of the injuries were serious," a statement from chief government spokesman Mohamed Shareef said.

The MDP said one of its senior leaders, Mohamed Nasheed, had been badly beaten by police and then briefly detained following the disturbances.

He was freed early on Monday morning.

Mr Nasheed was among several hundred people who gathered at a cemetery to pay their respects to Mr Salah on Saturday.

His party says it has evidence the dead man was still in jail on that day, contrary to the official version of events.

"His cell mates... people around him [in detention] noticed him on the 14th and some of them have given us evidence that he was beaten and he was shouting," acting MDP president Ibrahim Hussain Zaki told Reuters news agency.

In September 2003 anti-government riots rocked the Maldives capital when news emerged that two inmates had died in a jail riot.

The mayhem was unprecedented in the Maldives, a tranquil Indian Ocean atoll famed for its upmarket tourist resorts.

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Key Maldives dissidents arrested
02 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Maldives dissident denies crimes
19 May 05 |  South Asia
Maldives defends prison terms
26 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Maldives vote results confusion
27 Jan 05 |  South Asia
'Arrests' after Maldives riots
22 Sep 03 |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
18 Jan 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: The Maldives
07 Aug 02 |  Country profiles

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