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Maldives police apologise over arrest of tourist wearing bikini

A video circulating on social media shows a tourist with a British accent being detained by at least three police officers.

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Screengrab from video showing the arrest (MV Crisis/Twitter/PA)

Screengrab from video showing the arrest (MV Crisis/Twitter/PA)

Screengrab from video showing the arrest (MV Crisis/Twitter/PA)

A bikini-clad tourist has been arrested in the Maldives, prompting a public apology from the country’s police chief.

A video circulating on social media shows a woman being detained by at least three officers on the island of Maafushi, in the Kaafu atoll.

She can be heard repeatedly shouting in a British accent  “You are sexually assaulting me” as police struggle to put her in handcuffs. Another man can be seen covering part of her body with a towel as she is led away.

Following her arrest, Maldives Police Service Commissioner Mohamed Hameed issued a public apology to the woman, saying the incident appeared to have been “badly handled” by officers.

A Maldives police spokesperson said the tourist told officers she was British, but “refused” to show them her passport.

Police said they received a complaint from a member of the public that a woman was “inappropriately clad” and “inebriated” while walking on the island’s main road shortly after 5pm on Thursday.

The woman was approached by three officers, but “refused to comply” with local regulations and “showed resistance”, the force said in a statement.

She was subsequently arrested and taken to the local police station before being released without charge at about 7.10pm.

Tourist detained in the Maldives
Police said the woman ‘refused to comply’ with local regulations (MV Crisis/PA)

“Tourists on local islands are requested to respect the community’s cultural sensitivities and local regulations by restricting the wearing of swimwear to certain areas of the island where local communities live,” police said.

“Maldives Police Services sincerely apologises to the tourist and the public for the regretful manner in which this incident took place.”

Local news service Raajje.mv reported that, while Maafushi is a popular tourist location, wearing bikinis is “strictly prohibited” on local islands. It is, however, permitted in holiday resorts.

Mr Hameed said in a Twitter post: “Incident in Maafushi in which our officers restrained a female tourist seems to be badly handled.

“I apologise to the tourist & the public for this. The challenge I have taken up is to professionalise the police service & we are working on that.

“This matter is being investigated.”

The police service said visitors to the country should be “mindful of local sensitivities” when visiting inhabited islands.

An inquiry into the incident has been launched to ensure “disproportionate measures are not implemented in such situations”, police said.

The force’s professional standards command was sent to Maafushi on Thursday night and will report its findings to the commissioner in the next two days, police said.

The UK Government’s travel advice for the Republic of Maldives states that visitors to the Indian Ocean country should be “sensitive to local dress standards when visiting non-resort islands”.

It states that the popular tourist destination is an Islamic country and that tourists should “respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times”.

The country is made up of about 1,200 small islands and is located about 400 miles south-west of Sri Lanka.

PA