Maldives police apologise for 'badly-handled' arrest of bikini-clad tourist

7 February 2020, 16:15

The woman can be heard shouting with a British accent
The woman can be heard shouting with a British accent. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Maldives Police chief has apologised after a female tourist was arrested for wearing a bikini on a public beach.

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.

The woman, who has a British accent, can be heard repeatedly shouting "you are sexually assaulting me" and resisting being put in handcuffs.

One of the police can be seen trying to cover the woman with a towel as she is led off the beach.

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

Following the 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.

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.

Local news service reported that, while Maafushi is a popular tourist location, wearing bikinis is "strictly prohibited" on local islands except in holiday resorts.

The tourist was arrested on a beach in the Maldives
The tourist was arrested on a beach in the Maldives. Picture: 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."

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."

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.