Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Indonesia protests at execution of maid in Saudi Arabia

Indonesia's government has summoned Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Jakarta to protest against the execution of an Indonesian domestic worker.

Siti Zainab was beheaded on Tuesday in Medina after being convicted of stabbing and beating to death her employer, Noura al-Morobei, in 1999.

Neither Indonesian consular officials nor her family were given prior notice, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said.

President Joko Widodo and three of his predecessors had appealed for clemency.

Human rights groups had also criticised the sentence, asserting that Ms Zainab had been acting in self-defence and might also have been mentally ill.


On Tuesday, Ms Marsudi was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying she had asked the Saudi government to explain why it "did not give any warning" about the execution.

"We had taken all efforts [to prevent the beheading] including through diplomatic channels, legal avenues and approaching the family of the victim, as well as sending a presidential letter and during my meeting with the Saudi deputy foreign minister in March," she added.

The Saudi ambassador to Indonesia, Mustafa Ibrahim al-Mubarak, said he had been "surprised" to be summoned, but would "check what went wrong".

The Saudi interior ministry said the execution had been delayed for more than 15 years until the youngest of the victim's children was old enough to decide whether or not the family would want to pardon Ms Zainab or demand her execution.

Migrant Care, an NGO that campaigns on behalf of Indonesian expatriate workers, alleged that Ms Zainab had been acting in self-defence against an employer who had abused her. Before her arrest, she had sent two letters in which she said that Ms Morobei and her son had been cruel to her.

Amnesty International said she had made a "confession" during police interrogation but she had had no legal representation or access to a consular representative.

According to reports, the police suspected that she suffered from mental illness at the time of the interrogation, the US-based human rights group added.

Indonesia itself resumed executions in 2013 after a four-year moratorium. There were none during 2014, but six people, including five foreigners, were put to death in January.

Despite this, the Indonesian foreign ministry recently said it was seeking to prevent the execution of at least 229 Indonesian citizens sentenced to death overseas.

In April 2014, the government paid $1.8m (£1m) to secure the commutation of a death sentence against another Indonesian domestic worker in Saudi Arabia, who had been convicted of the murder of her employer. As in Ms Zainab's case, the woman was said to have acted in self-defence.


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