Transgender beauty entrepreneur fights extradition from Thailand

Transgender beauty entrepreneur fights extradition from Thailand to Malaysia on charges of insulting Islam by wearing a dress

  • Nur Sajat, 35, fled Malaysia to Thailand after facing charges of insulting Islam 
  • Sajat faces charge of dressing as woman at religious event, which she denies
  • She was arrested by Thai immigration authorities for entering country illegally
  • The cosmetics company owner said she is terrified to be sent back to Malaysia

A transgender beauty entrepreneur who fled Malaysia after being charged with insulting Islam by wearing a dress is fighting extradition from Thailand.

Nur Sajat, 35, as she prefers to be known, fled Malaysia after she was charged with dressing as a woman at a religious event and insulting Islam, which she pleaded not guilty to, in an Islamic court in January.

The cosmetics company owner was arrested by Thai immigration authorities on September 8 on the grounds that she allegedly entered the country illegally. 

In Malaysia, she faces up to three years in jail – most likely in a men’s facility – and a fine for allegedly dressing as a woman at a religious event in 2018, according to reports.

But the beauty magnate told her 312,000 Instagram followers that she is terrified of being sent back to Malaysia because she has received countless death threats.

Human rights activists claimed she will be in ‘danger’ and face ‘mistreatment and abuse’ if she is deported to Malaysia and are supporting her bid for asylum, potentially to Australia.

Nur Sajat (pictured), 35, as she prefers to be known, fled Malaysia after she was charged in an Islamic court for allegedly dressing as a woman at a religious event, which she denies

In February, an arrest warrant was issued for her after she failed to turn up to a hearing at the Syariah High Court on charges of insulting Islam by dressing as a woman at a religious ceremony.

She was arrested by Thai immigration authorities on September 8 after allegedly entering the country illegally from Malaysia, and her deportation is said to be ‘underway’.

Thai immigration officials reportedly released her on bail, but Malaysian authorities cancelled her passport and are negotiating to have her extradited. 

Sajat’s deportation is underway but could take time, and many factors will be taken into consideration, Thai deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen said.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat added that the government was ‘considering this matter based on the law and Thailand’s humanitarian principles’.  

Last week, Malaysian Criminal Investigation Department director Abd Jalil Hassan said police, the foreign ministry and the attorney general’s office were making efforts to bring Sajat back. 

In a news conference, during which he referred to Sajat by her formal name, the director said Malaysia recommended Sajat ‘returns to the country in a good way to face the cases’.

Malaysia has also charged Sajat on separate charges of obstructing and threatening a public servant.

Malaysia has a duel-track legal system, with Islamic criminal and family laws applicable to Muslims alongside civil laws.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received an application from Sajat for refugee status in Australia, according to The Harian Metro. 

Sajat (pictutred) was arrested by Thai immigration authorities on September 8 on the grounds that she entered the country illegally, but she said is terrified to be sent back to Malaysia

According to The Star, Thai authorities said: ‘A check found that Nur Sajat received a UNHCR card issued by its headquarters in Bangkok.’

The UNHCR identity document gives ‘a level of protection which may reduce the risk of arrest’ but has no formal legal value in Malaysia and is not a passport, according to the UNHCR website.

Earlier this year, Sajat posted a video on Instagram saying: ‘(Anti-trans people) made me want to quit the religion. Because we didn’t do anything wrong but people harshly blame us for being bad.’

Her case has raised concern about what human rights groups claim is a worsening climate for LGBTQI+ people in Malaysia, a country that outlaws same-sex acts.

In June, a Malaysian government task force proposed amending Islamic law to allow action to be taken against social media users who were insulting Islam and ‘promoting the LGBT lifestyle’.

Sunai Phasuk, a senior Thailand researcher at the NGO ‘Human Rights Watch’, said: ‘The prosecution in Malaysia is based on her gender identity so there is already sufficient ground for her protection under international standards.’

Justice for Sisters, a Malaysian transgender rights group, said calls for restrictive measures against LGBTQ+ people have been on the rise and anti-gay sentiments have increased since Sajat was arrested, according to The Washington Post. 

According to Human Rights Watch, transgender people in Malaysia ‘face arbitrary arrest, physical and sexual assault, imprisonment, discriminatory denial of health care and employment, and other abuses’.

No further updates on the status of Sajat’s asylum application have been released.

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