15 January 2012

Indonesian laborers survive death row in Saudi Arabia

Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sun, 01/15/2012

The government-sanctioned task force on Indonesian migrant workers claimed that it had helped two female domestic workers in Saudi Arabia avoid the death penalty.

Mesi binti Dama Idon was found guilty of practicing black magic by a Saudi court and Neneng Sunengsih binti Mamih was recently acquitted of a murder charge.

“The two are scheduled to fly home to Indonesia on Jan. 19,” task force spokesman Humphrey Djemat said in a statement on Saturday.

Mesi was initially found guilty and sentenced to death. “The Indonesian government objected to the ruling and our embassy in Riyadh filed an appeal to challenge the death penalty,” said task force chairman Maftuh Basyuni.

In July 2011, a local court granted an appeal to commute the death sentence and agreed to a 10-year jail term.

Earlier this month, the King of the Saudi Arabia ordered local authorities to release Mesi.

Neneng, meanwhile, was detained at Al Jouf prison in Riyadh on Nov. 12, 2011. She was charged with murdering her employer’s 4-month-old son.

“Our embassy in Riyadh hired local lawyer Naseer Al Dandani to challenge the murder charges. Local authorities failed to prove that Neneng intentionally killed the baby, while the parents of the toddler rejected an autopsy,” Humphrey said, adding that Neneng is currently being sheltered at the Riyadh embassy.

Prior to the acquittal of the two suspects, there were already 37 Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia who had avoided death row.

The task force earlier announced that 14 workers in Malaysia, 11 in China and two in Iran had escaped the death penalty.

Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah, head of a nongovernmental organization that campaigns to protect domestic workers’ rights dismissed the task force’s claim.

“Almost all the workers who have avoided beheading in Saudi Arabia had undergone a very long and arduous legal battle. Some of them had actually been imprisoned for more than 10 years [before having their sentences commuted),” Anis told The Jakarta Post.

Anis alleged that the task force’s claim was politically-motivated to burnish an image that the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appeared successful in this matter — which it is not,” she said.

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