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Maldives sacks minister for criticising police

Male:  The Maldives has sacked its Human Rights Minister who had criticised police for arresting opposition lawmakers, including her husband, on charges of alcohol consumption, an official statement said on Tuesday.

Dhiyana Saeed, the minister for Gender and Human Rights, was dismissed "for making false allegations" against the police and government over the raid last week on a small island being developed as a tourist resort.

Saeed had said that police used excessive force in detaining several opposition figures, including her husband, for drinking alcohol, an offence in the Islamic republic.

"Minister Saeed has been dismissed from her position today by the President (Mohamed Waheed)," the government statement said.

Drinking is punishable with hefty fines and lengthy jail terms under local and sharia law in the Maldives, a nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.

Saeed told the Maldivian media that her husband had been badly beaten up by police.

"Police even hit Jabir on his private organs so hard that he is still bleeding," Saeed was quoted as saying in the local Minivannews website.

The opposition has described the arrests as being politically motivated.

The Maldives is best known for its upmarket tourism industry but has recently been troubled by an increase in religious extremism, with calls to ban spas and massage parlours from tourist resorts.

The country has also been in political turmoil for over a year. The nation's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, resigned in February after weeks of street protests against his administration.
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