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Opposition activist was not tortured: doctor

world Updated: Apr 23, 2007 17:01 IST
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A post-mortem exam has ruled out physical violence as the cause of a Maldivian opposition activist's death, a Sri Lankan doctor said, after prison authorities were accused of beating him to death.

The results of the autopsy -- the Maldives' first-ever post-mortem examination, which was carried out in neighbouring Sri Lanka -- came after a week of tension after the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party accused authorities of beating its member Hussain Salah to death.

The government denied the allegations and said Salah's body was found floating in a harbour.

"There were no major injuries to bones, soft tissue, or internal organs, and therefore death by physical violence is excluded," said Dr LBL de Alwis, chief judicial medical officer for the Sri Lankan government, who conducted the autopsy.

After allegations of Salah's torture surfaced, the Maldives' government sanctioned the Muslim nation's first autopsy following a request from the deceased's relatives.

Islam requires that a corpse be buried quickly without cutting or disturbing it. Salah's body was flown to Sri Lanka on Friday for the autopsy, which found Salah drowned to death.

"Whilst there were minor injuries to nose, face and left leg, these could well have been sustained in the water. There were no injuries due to burns," de Alwis said in a report released Saturday.

"Fine sand particles were present in the lower respiratory passages, therefore, the death is due to drowning." Samples of Salah's body were being tested for alcohol and drug use, de Alwis said.

The Maldives' government has said Salah was a drug addict who had previous convictions on narcotics and burglary charges. Mohamed Nasheed, another senior MDP leader, said earlier this month hundreds of party supporters went to a prison in Male to protest after rumors spread that Salah had been killed in custody.

Nasheed said he saw Salah's body being buried on the prison grounds but when more protesters arrived, prison authorities quickly stopped.

Maldives' chief government spokesman Mohamed Hussain Shareef denied allegations that Salah died in custody. He said his body was found floating in the sea 36 hours after he was released from police detention over a narcotics charge.

Maldives is a Muslim nation of about 300,000 people on 1,192 coral islands in the Indian Ocean.