Thailand Urged Not To Deport Trans Woman Charged In Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A human rights group urged Thailand not to deport a transgender businesswoman to her home country of Malaysia, where she is charged under Islamic laws for insulting Islam by cross-dressing.

Malaysian police are seeking to extradite Nur Sajat, 36, who left the country after she was charged in an Islamic court in January for bringing contempt to Islam by dressing in feminine clothing at a religious event in 2018. Sajat, who runs a cosmetics business, faces up to three years in jail for the offense.

Sajat failed to appear for a February court hearing and reportedly received death threats after she mulled renouncing Islam in a video on social media that has now been removed.

Malaysian police said in a statement late Monday that Sajat was detained by Thai authorities on Sept 8 for having an invalid passport. She was charged with immigration offenses and released on bail. The statement didn't say why her passport was canceled. Police said she is wanted in Malaysia for other offenses, including obstructing authorities in carrying out their duties.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director, said the U.N. Refugee Agency has granted Sajat refugee status and that she shouldn't be sent back under any circumstances.

“She needs to be sent to a country that will offer rights protections, not persecuted for being #LGBT which is what will happen if she is sent to Malaysia," he tweeted late Monday. Local media reported that Sajat plans to seek refuge in Australia.

The UNHCR agency couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system. Shariah laws govern Muslims, who account for two-thirds of Malaysia’s 32 million people, in family, marriage and personal issues. Ethnic Chinese, Indian and other minorities are covered by civil laws.

Rights activists say the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has faced increasing harassment with the rise of conservative Islam.