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July 28, 2017

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Police raid Maldives rally over 'cursed chicken'

COLOMBO -- Police in the Maldives raided a political rally after a "cursed chicken" was allegedly thrown at officers during an opposition protest last week, a spokesman said Wednesday.

A meeting of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was broken up Tuesday after evil spirits were suspected to have been invoked against the government, police spokesman Hassan Haneef said.

He said the warrant was based on allegations that MDP activists had used "black magic" during a protest Friday when a "cursed rooster" was hurled at police officers.

"We had a court order to take apart the venue where the MDP was resorting to black magic," Haneef said by telephone from the Indian Ocean atoll nation.

No animals were found in the raid but police collected written verses associated with sorcery, he said.

After the raid on the island capital of Male, clashes erupted between dozens of police and opposition activists and 56 people were arrested.

Sorcery is not a criminal offence in the Maldives, but it carries a six-month jail sentence under Islamic Sharia law in the archipelago of 330,000 Sunni Muslims. Black magic is widely used throughout the country, both in the capital and on remote atolls, to curse opponents.

The nation's main Islamic party, Adhaalath, is campaigning to make sorcery punishable by death.

The MDP, headed by former President Mohamed Nasheed, has been holding regular protests since February when he stepped down in what he later claimed was a military and police-backed coup.

Nasheed has been pushing for early elections, originally scheduled for between July and October 2013, but President Mohamed Waheed's government says elections cannot be held earlier.

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