The Maldives has sanctioned the Muslim nation's first-ever post mortem examination to examine the suspicious death of an opposition activist who was allegedly beaten to death in custody, officials said.
The body of Hussain Salah, which was found floating in Male harbour last Sunday, was sent to neighboring Sri Lanka on Friday for an autopsy on the request of the deceased man's relatives, Maldives' chief government spokesman Mohamed Hussain Shareef said by phone from the capital Male.
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.