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HRW denounces Saudi transvestite arrests

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, June 24 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabian authorities should drop charges against 67 men arrested in Riyadh for wearing women's clothing, human rights advocates say.

Human Rights Watch said in a release Wednesday that the men, most of whom were from other countries, had their basic human rights to privacy and freedom of expression violated in the reported June 13 arrests.

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"If the police in Saudi Arabia can arrest people simply because they don't like their clothes, no one is safe," said Rasha Moumneh, researcher in the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch.

The group said the episode was reported by the Saudi daily al-Riyadh on June 16 and corroborated by independent sources contacted by Human Rights Watch. HRW said the newspaper reported that several men outside a private party, held in Riyadh to celebrate the Philippines' Independence Day, were arrested for what the police told them was "suspicious behavior" because they were wearing women's clothing.

The police questioned the men, then reportedly raided the party, arresting 67 men in all, including one Yemeni and numerous Filipinos. Philippines Embassy officials say the men face charges of "imitating women" and possession of alcohol.

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