Penang woman cleared of murdering Indonesian maid

Ms Petronela Koa in tears on Feb 17 last year when the coffin containing her niece Adelina Sau arrived in East Nusa Tenggara. Ms Sau was found outside her employer's home covered with wounds. She died in hospital.
Ms Petronela Koa in tears on Feb 17 last year when the coffin containing her niece Adelina Sau arrived in East Nusa Tenggara. Ms Sau was found outside her employer's home covered with wounds. She died in hospital.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KUALA LUMPUR • A Malaysian woman has reportedly been cleared of murdering her Indonesian maid, who was allegedly tortured and forced to sleep outside with a dog, with activists yesterday criticising the "shocking" decision.

Ms Adelina Sau died in February last year after being found outside her employer's home on the northern Malaysian island of Penang, with her head and face swollen and covered in wounds.

The horrific nature of Ms Sau's case generated headlines and triggered diplomatic tensions between the neighbours.

Her employer, Ms S. Ambika, was charged with murder - an offence that carries a mandatory death sentence in Malaysia - shortly after the 21-year-old was rescued. Ms Sau died in hospital.

But the High Court in Penang dropped the murder charge against the employer last week, local media reported, without saying why.

Malaysian human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen called the decision "shocking and unacceptable". "This was one of the most public and harrowing abuse cases... and yet the Attorney-General's Chambers somehow saw fit to drop the charge," said Mr Paulsen, a member of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

Mr Steven Sim, an MP from the area where Ms Sau died, said the court decision was "as tragic as the death of Adelina". Mr Sim said he had contacted the Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, who had vowed to look into the case.

In Indonesia, Mr Wahyu Susilo, executive director of non-government organisation Migrant Care, condemned the acquittal and described it as "far from justice". He said the employer may have been cleared due to a failure to get key witnesses to testify at the trial, and called on Jakarta to lodge a protest.

Ms Sau's murder caused anger in Indonesia, with the Foreign Minister branding it unacceptable. Allegations of maid abuse, ranging from overwork to beatings and sex attacks, are a regular diplomatic flashpoint between the South-east Asian neighbours.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2019, with the headline 'Penang woman cleared of murdering Indonesian maid'. Print Edition | Subscribe