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Last Updated: Friday, 20 April 2007, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Maldives opposition plan protest
By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Colombo

Protesters in the Maldives
The opposition say their supporters have been detained and ill-treated
The Maldives is braced for more clashes between the police and opposition activists demonstrating over a man allegedly killed in police custody.

The man's battered body was discovered in the harbour of the capital Male.

The government has denied allegations by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party that he died in police custody.

The opposition says it is losing faith in commitments made by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to loosen his nearly three-decade-long hold on power.

Severe rioting

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) says it is determined to go ahead with a protest on Friday.

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

They say it is clear that Hussein Salah was murdered while being detained by the police.

Deaths in custody are an emotive issue in the Maldives where a killing in 2003 triggered severe rioting.

The controversy began on Sunday when Hussein Salah's body was pulled from the capital's harbour.

'Police culture'

Mourners who had gathered at the cemetery saw that it was badly battered and a demonstration followed.

The police arrested several people including the Chairman of the MDP, Mohamed Nasheed.

He says that torture has become "police culture" in the Maldives.

Photo which opposition says shows Maldives police assaulting its leader
The MDP says this photo shows police assaulting one of its leaders

"They have to be able to intimidate the public if they are to remain in power," he said, "it is the only means they know."

The government said the dead man was released from custody alive and must have died afterwards.

It is arranging an independent autopsy in nearby Sri Lanka.

But the opposition says the death is evidence that little has changed in the Maldives despite promises of reform from President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The president is Asia's longest serving leader, and has agreed to a "road map" that is supposed to lead to landmark multi-party elections next year.

But the opposition accuses him of reneging on his promises.




SEE ALSO
Row over Maldives 'custody' death
16 Apr 07 |  South Asia
Maldives protesters cancel rally
09 Nov 06 |  South Asia
Maldives dissident rejects pardon
16 Aug 06 |  South Asia
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
Country profile: The Maldives
18 Jan 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: The Maldives
07 Aug 02 |  Country profiles

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