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India: 2 policemen suspended for Facebook arrests

Two senior policemen in the western Indian state of Maharashtra were suspended Tuesday for arresting two women over a Facebook post criticizing the shutdown of Mumbai for the funeral of a powerful politician last week.

The policemen were suspended indefinitely and the magistrate who registered the case against the women was transferred to another district, state Home Minister R.R. Patil told reporters.

Police also arrested nine men who vandalized a medical clinic run by the uncle of one of the women, Patil said.

One of the women had posted a Facebook comment complaining that Mumbai had come to a standstill after the death of rightwing leader Bal Thackeray "due to fear, not due to respect" for the politician. Her friend "liked" the post.

Shops and offices were closed and public transport stopped running in Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment hub, after the death of Thackeray, a Hindu extremist leader linked to waves of mob violence against Muslims and migrant workers in the city.

The women later withdrew the Facebook comment and apologized, but a mob of Thackeray's supporters forced their way into the medical clinic and smashed the operation theater and medical equipment as patients and nurses fled.

The arrest of the two women sparked outrage across India and was seen as flagrant misuse of Internet laws and an attempt to curb freedom of expression. They were released on bail a day after their arrests.

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