The Saudi Arabian interior ministry has rejected media reports about two transgender women from Pakistan being tortured to death in police custody. Several Pakistani activists decried the act at a media conference on Monday (6 March).
According to Pakistani media, Amna (35) and Meeno (26) died in Riyadh on 28 February after being allegedly beaten by police. They were reportedly among 30 people arrested by the Saudi police for cross-dressing in public.
However, media reports from Saudi Arabia confirmed that some people were arrested, butdid not mention the word "transgender". A raid was conducted at a party where men were dressed as women and around 35 people were detained. Pakistani media reports said that those arrested were transgender.
Pakistani transgender activist Farzana Riaz told a news conference in Peshawar that sources in the transgender community in Saudi Arabia had told her the two women were beaten with sticks that led to their death.
She added: "We are deeply saddened by the deaths of these two innocent trans persons in Saudi Arabia."
Riaz, a leader of the group Trans Action Pakistan, also showed journalists photographs of the people who still remain in Saudi police's custody. She said she received those pictures from her "contacts" in Saudi.
Qamar Naseem, a rights activist from the Blue Veins group, told journalists that he had passed on all available information about the incident to members of Pakistan's parliament. He had earlier said that a majority of those arrested belonged to Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Tuesday (7 March), the Saudi interior ministry said that the claims of torture were "totally wrong" and only one elderly Pakistani had died in custody.
"One 61-year-old person suffered a heart attack and died in the hospital after being treated. The Pakistani embassy looked into this case and another one. Procedures have started to send the body back to his country," the statement read.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Islamic kingdom does not have any particular laws against transgender people, but their police arrest and imprison people on charges of cross-dressing, Reuters reported.