Islam requires that a corpse be buried quickly without cutting or disturbing it.
"So far in Maldives, an autopsy has never taken place, partly due to religion _ and also there was never such a request," Shareef said. The Maldives is a Muslim nation of about 300,000 people on 1,192 coral islands in the Indian Ocean.
"This isn't without controversy," Shareef said of the government decision to agree to a post-mortem.
"Already some religious groups and parties have vehemently opposed it," he said, adding that the government agreed to the family request because it has nothing to hide.
A Sri Lankan foreign ministry official confirmed that the body is in Sri Lanka but declined to give further details. Mohamed Nasheed, a senior leader of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, said earlier Salah had died in custody and police attempts to bury his body in a hurry were thwarted by protesters including himself.
But the government says that Salah had died 36 hours after being released from police detention over a narcotics charge. The government identified Salah as a drug addict who had previous convictions on narcotics and burglary charges.