At least 15 foreign Christians have been expelled from the Republic of Maldives, a nation of 200 inhabited islands in the Indian Ocean, after government authorities launched unannounced searches of their homes. No official charges have been filed.

As many as 50 Maldivians also were arrested in June under suspicion of being Christians, which is illegal under the Maldivian constitution. The Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka reports they are being held in solitary confinement at the Dhoonidhoo prison and are likely being subjected to torture.

The national religion of Maldives is Islam and nearly all 280,000 residents are adherents, although a tiny native Christian population exists.

Recently, the country's Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs warned Maldivians not to listen to Christian programs broadcast for the first time in the Dhivehi language by Far East Broadcasting Association from Seychelles or they would risk arrest.

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September 7, 1998

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