Kicked out of Sri Lanka for taboo tattoo

Last updated 14:35 23/04/2014
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OUT OF RESPECT: Tourists have been warned not to pose for photos in front of statues of the Buddha.

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A British woman has been ordered to leave Sri Lanka because she has a Buddha tattoo on her upper arm.

Naomi Coleman, 37, was arrested at the majority Buddhist country's main international airport on Monday, shortly after arriving on a flight from India.

She appeared before a magistrate who ordered her deportation, police said in a statement.

A police spokesman said Coleman was arrested for "hurting others' religious feelings", the Mirror reported.

Coleman was being held at an immigration detention centre until deportation which could be in the next day or so, the spokesman said.

AFP quoted Coleman saying: "It is a terrible, hellish experience."

The mental health nurse from Coventry in England said she was a practising Buddhist and meditated.

"That is why I have the tattoo - not out of disrespect for Buddhism."

The tattoo had not created any problems on two previous visits to Sri Lanka.

Coleman said she had been harassed by police for bribes and paid 5000 rupees (NZ$44.50) for a lawyer, who did not help.

"I cried. I am very afraid," she said.

Another British tourist was denied entry at Colombo's international airport last March after immigration officials said he had spoken "disrespectfully" when asked about a tattoo of the Buddha on his arm.

Two years ago three French tourists were given suspended prison sentences for kissing a Buddha statue.

Sri Lanka prevented US rap star Akon from visiting in 2010 over one of his music videos that featured scantily clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue.

United Kingdom travel advice warns British tourists not to pose for photos in front of statues of the Buddha.

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