Anger as Malaysian cleared of murdering Indonesian maid in Penang

A woman cries next to the coffin containing her niece Adelina Lisao, a domestic helper who died in Malaysia, during its arrival at Kupang airport in East Nusa Tenggara on Feb 17, 2018.
A woman cries next to the coffin containing her niece Adelina Lisao, a domestic helper who died in Malaysia, during its arrival at Kupang airport in East Nusa Tenggara on Feb 17, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - 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 on Monday (April 22) criticising the "shocking" decision.

Ms Adelina Lisao 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 Adelina's case generated headlines and triggered diplomatic tensions between the neighbours.

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

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

Prominent Malaysian human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen called the decision "shocking and unacceptable".

"This was one of the most public and harrowing abuse cases ever recorded and yet the attorney-general's chambers somehow saw fit to drop the charge," Mr Paulsen, a member of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, said.

 
 

Mr Steven Sim, an MP from the area where Ms Adelina died, said the court decision was "as tragic as the death of Adelina".

Mr Sim said he had contacted Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, who had vowed to look into the case.

In Indonesia, Mr Wahyu Susilo, executive director of NGO 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.

Her 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.