Coconut held in vote-rigging row
A coconut is being held by police in the Maldives amid allegations that black magic was used in an attempt to disrupt a bitterly-contested presidential election.
The coconut, bearing inscriptions, was found close to a school which is to be used as a polling station on the remote Kaafu atoll, Guraidhoo, one of the hundreds of islands that comprise the Indian Ocean archipelago state.
The local Minivan News website reported that police "took the coconut into their possession" after receiving a complaint.
Black magic is often used in an attempt to prevent people from voting or influence them on the islands, with coconuts used in rituals and inscribed with spells.
It was reported earlier this year that the school authorities on Guraidhoo had resisted using their buildings as polling stations, citing previous instances of problems being caused by magic.
In a bid to allay their fears the national election commission said it would accept responsibility "if anyone falls under a spell or comes down ill".
As for the 'kurumba' (young coconut) detained by police, officers brought in a 'ruqyah' practitioner or white magician, to examine the fruit, who found there was no case to answer after ruling it was a fake. No arrests have been made.
The election is being fought between Mohammed Nasheed, the former president who claims he was ousted last year in a coup, and a leading Maldives' businessmen, the outgoing president and the half-brother of former dictator, Mamoun Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed is hoping to win outright and avoid a run-off second election.