Saudi woman jailed for 'maid abuse'

Employer sentenced to three years in jail for beating Indonesian housemaid in a case that sparked international outcry.

    A lawyer for Sumiati says he will appeal the ruling and press for a harsher sentence [AFP]

    A Saudi court has sentenced a woman to three years in prison for stabbing, beating and burning her Indonesian housemaid.

    The woman, who has not been named, was sentenced under a newly-enacted anti-human trafficking royal decree, Saudi newspapers reported on Monday.

    She had been accused of beating 23-year-old Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa in November, and had allegedly left Sumiati with several broken bones, internal bleeding and severe bruising.

    She was also alleged to have placed a hot iron to Sumiati's head and stabbing and slashing her with scissors.

    Sumiati appeared in court last week to show the judge the marks of her wounds. She underwent surgery in November, but Diddi Wahyudi, an Indonesian consulate official in Jeddah, said she will need a further operation.

    A lawyer for the Indonesian consulate, Abdulrahman al-Muhamadi, has said he will appeal the ruling and press for a tougher punishment, the Saudi newspaper al-Watan reported.

    But Sumiati's Saudi employer insisted on Sunday that she was innocent and had nothing to do with the wounds. She has denied the charges against her and has said she will appeal against the sentencing.

    International outcry

    Sumiati's case sparked an international outcry and outraged rights groups and labour activists after she was admitted to hospital last year.

    Saudi Arabia's labour ministry said it was sorry about the case, but called it an isolated incident.

    Amnesty International, the London-based human-rights watchdog, has said the case could be just "the tip of the iceberg" concerning the "systematic abuse" of Asian women working as domestic servants in the Gulf region.

    Gulf states "have to take steps to put an end to this horrific treatment of migrant domestic workers, by immediately removing the legal climate of impunity that allows employers to exploit, enslave, abuse, assault and injure their domestic workers with virtual impunity" Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said when the allegations surfaced.

    More than 80,000 Indonesian domestic workers flock to Saudi Arabia every year. Rights groups say they, and other migrant workers, at times face slavery-like conditions and sexual abuse.

    The New York-based group Human Rights Watch has also urged Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait to do more to protect domestic workers in their countries, saying a string of allegations point to a "broader pattern of abuse".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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