2 maids on Saudi death row return to Jakarta

JAKARTA • Two Indonesian domestic workers sentenced to death for practising witchcraft against their employers' families in Saudi Arabia returned home yesterday after their sentences were commuted, Indonesia's Foreign Ministry said.

Sumartini and Warnah, who both have only one name, arrived in Jakarta after serving about 10 years in a Saudi prison, Mr Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, a senior official at the ministry, said.

The women were sentenced to death by a court in Riyadh in 2009, but had their punishment reduced early this year after years of negotiation between Jakarta and the oil-rich kingdom.

"After going through a tough negotiation, the embassy managed to convince the Saudi government the women could leave for their homeland," Indonesia's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mr Agus Maftuh Abegebriel, said.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia's religious police enforce the country's strict interpretation of Islam, which includes arresting people for alleged witchcraft.

Sumartini was accused of making the 17-year-old son of her employer vanish by using black magic, although he was later found alive.

Warnah, meanwhile, was accused of casting a spell against her employer's first wife that made her suffer from mysterious illnesses, Indonesian media reported.

Indonesian activists have been demanding the release of the women for years, and staged street protests during the visit of Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2017.

Indonesia has long complained about the treatment of its migrant workers abroad and in 2015 introduced a ban on new domestic workers from entering 21 Middle Eastern countries.

Saudi Arabia executed 37 people for "terrorism" crimes on Tuesday, bringing the total to over 100 for the year, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet yesterday condemned the mass executions carried out by Saudi Arabia this week, stressing that those convicted were likely not afforded credible criminal trials.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline '2 maids on Saudi death row return to Jakarta'. Print Edition | Subscribe