Peru prosecutors to probe transgender man’s death in Bali

Sep 1, 2022, 6:22 AM | Updated: 6:25 pm
A demonstrator holds a pride flag during a protest to demand justice for Rodrigo Ventosilla, a Peru...

A demonstrator holds a pride flag during a protest to demand justice for Rodrigo Ventosilla, a Peruvian transgender man who died in Indonesia, outside the special prosecutor's office in Lima, Peru, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Cesar Campos)

(AP Photo/Cesar Campos)

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Prosecutors said Thursday they have opened an investigation into the death of a Peruvian transgender man who died this month after being detained on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali.

Peru’s Public Ministry said the probe by prosecutors who specialize in human rights will include an autopsy on Rodrigo Ventocilla, which had been demanded by LGBTQ activists amid allegations by the man’s family that he was tortured by Indonesian police.

Authorities in Indonesia have denied those claims, saying Ventocilla was not abused or mistreated. They say he died in a hospital Aug. 11 after complaining of stomach pains and showing signs of depression while in detention.

Peruvian officials said the investigation will look into allegations that Ventocilla suffered torture at the hands of two police officers and that Peru’s consul in Jakarta did not perform his duties in protecting Ventocilla. The investigation will also study allegations that Ventocilla’s Peruvian husband, Sebastián Marallanod, was tortured.

Julio Arbizu, a lawyer for Ventocilla’s family, said the investigation follows a complaint of torture that the family filed this week with the human rights prosecutor’s office.

Peru can assert jurisdiction in cases of alleged torture even if it happened in another country. Peru and Indonesia are among the more than 150 countries that have signed the United Nations Convention against Torture.

Ventocilla, a 32-year-old graduate student at Harvard University, was detained Aug. 6 at the island’s airport after arriving on his honeymoon with Marallano. Marallano was also detained when he tried to help Ventocilla.

Authorities said Ventocilla’s body had left Indonesia and was scheduled to arrive in Lima on Friday.

Luzmo Henríquez, a representative of the family of the deceased, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that relatives believe he died as a result of torture.

“He was detained because of his gender identity. His identity document did not match his appearance. That made him a suspect for the Indonesian police. He was extorted, tortured and has died,” Henríquez said.

Indonesian authorities deny any act of violence or discrimination. “Everything went according to standard operation,” Stefanus Satake Bayu Setianto, a Bali police spokesperson, said Monday.

Officials in Indonesia have said customs officers found a package of brownies with Ventocilla that they suspected might contain cannabis and turned him over to police. Officials said Ventocilla was taken to the hospital the morning of Aug. 9.

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Peru prosecutors to probe transgender man’s death in Bali