Family awaits news of Indonesian maid on death row

Gov't optimistic commitment to pay US$1.86 million riyal in Saudi Arabia could save life of Muslim migrant worker accused of murdering boss.

Gov't optimistic commitment to pay US$1.86 million riyal in Saudi Arabia could save life of Muslim migrant worker accused of murdering boss.

SEMARANG, Indonesia - The Muslim brother of an Indonesian maid sentenced to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia for murdering her boss says he still has no idea of her welfare.

Paeri Al Ferry told the Anadolu Agency Saturday that the family is still waiting to hear what Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad's situation is, as there has been no official statement about negotiations to pay blood money of 7 million Saudi riyal (US$1.8 million) to her alleged victim's family.

‪"There is no relief yet as we still have no news that Nura Al Gharib's family have even accepted the diyat," he told AA from Ungaran, in the Central Java area of Indonesia. 

Satinah was due to be beheaded today (Saturday) if the Indonesian government failed to meet the compensation demanded. She is reported to have admitted murdering her 70-year-old female employer in June 2007 in Gaseem, Saudi Arabia, while also stealing 37,970 Saudi riyal (US$10,125).

Human rights groups claim that she had been repeatedly tortured by her employer.

Satinah was initially jailed on appeal in 2009, but then sentenced to death by the court in 2010. Her execution was due to take place in August 2011, but it has been postponed four times - first to December 2011, then to December 2012, June 2013 and then April 3.

‪In 2011, the victim’s family said they would accept an apology if the Indonesian government agreed to pay diyat of 15 million riyal. This was lowered to 10 million riyal the following year and now stands at 7 million. 

Two days ago, the government said it was optimistic that its commitment to pay the 7 million would be accepted. But Satinah's family says they have heard nothing since.

A Saudi Arabian representative is reported to have been assisting Indonesia after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sent a letter to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz requesting clemency

Satinah's brother Paeri told AA on Saturday that he understands she is still alive, but they are still awaiting news. 

On Thursday, Antara News quoted Indonesia's Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto as saying: “Hopefully, there will not be any changes to the terms requested.”

Suyanto said that 5 million riyal had been given to an inheritance management body in Saudi Arabia, while the remaining 2 million riyal was being held by the Indonesian team until “technical” negotiations with the family were complete. He reiterated that the Indonesian Foreign Ministry had only provided 3 million riyal, with the further 4 million collected from other sources.

Should the team reach a deal, however, the maid's problems are not over - she is likely to have to stand two more trials.

Gatot Abdullah Mansyur, the head of the Indonesian Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesia Migrant Workers, told AA that the first ‪“trial will confirm the deal and the second is a common trial to see how much she has disturbed public order.” 

‪“Usually, the punishment is 5 years’ imprisonment. But, as Satinah has served 7 years in jail, I’d say she has served more than enough time,” he added.

- Satinah one of many Indonesians on death row

Satinah is just one of 41 Indonesian workers facing death sentences in the Gulf kingdom. According to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and local nonprofit groups, they are charged with crimes ranging from stealing to sorcery, murder and adultery.

Given the ever-increasing amount of blood money demanded, the government has set a diyat benchmark. According to Saudi customs, this should be no more than 200 camels, or equal to 500,000 riyal, an amount that has caused Indonesian Migrant Care Executive Director Anis Hidayah to question the involvement of a "judicial mafia" in Satinah's case.

"Why in the Satinah case was the diyat 7 million riyal?," she told Anadolu Agency this week. "It's too high."

She said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has asked her organization to write a report on the case because they suspect judicial procedures were not followed correctly.

She was not given a lawyer or a translator, Hidayah told AA. "And once convicted, her fate has been in limbo (for 5 years)," she added.

Hidayah said that the worst thing is that the Indonesian government didn't even know about the case until the legal process had been completed and the verdict decided.

Anis and her organization have called on the Indonesian government to do more to provide assistance to Indonesian workers in such cases. At present, at least 261 of them are on trial overseas, threatened with the death penalty. 

- Culprit or victim?

Wahidah Rustam, chair of Indonesia’s Women Solidarity’s national executive board, told Antara this week that Satinah had killed her employer because she had repeatedly tortured her.

She said that throughout the legal process, Satinah had received no assistance or aid from the Indonesian government, which has highlighted its failure to protect the rights of its migrant workers, many of whom are women.

‪“The government needs to understand that protecting female migrant workers from the threat of a death sentence not only concerns the issue of diyat, it’s an issue of injustice affecting female migrant workers, especially regarding their rights,” Rustam said.

She added that paying diyat should no longer be the primary solution to helping migrant workers - "Political diplomacy and a comprehensive protection mechanism should be established (first).” 

Indonesia has been sending migrant workers overseas since the 1980s, but only last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Saudi Arabia prioritizing protection for its workers.

The MoU was triggered by a rare moratorium after the beheading of household worker Ruyati binti Satubi in June 2011.

Satubi was executed while Indonesia was still requesting clemency. She had also been charged with killing her employer.

Under the MoU, Indonesian domestic workers will no longer have their passports confiscated by their employers or barred from communicating with outsiders. In addition, maids will be guaranteed regular monthly wage payments, sick leave, days off and a one-month paid holiday every two years.

The bilateral agreement also guarantees every worker access to cell phones, health insurance and the ability to reach a 24-hour call center if in need of help.

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