Saudi Arabia executes maid from Philippines despite protests

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (NYTIMES) - A 39-year-old Filipino maid was executed early this week in Saudi Arabia despite protests from the Philippines, officials said on Thursday (Jan 31).

The woman, whose name was not revealed, had been found guilty of murder, the Philippine government said. But details about her case were not made public, though an official said the Supreme Judicial Council of Saudi Arabia had refused an offer of "blood money" for her alleged crime.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs extends its deep condolences to the family of a Filipina household service worker who was executed in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday," the department said in a brief statement.

The country's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mr Adnan Alonto, said the embassy had offered the woman legal assistance during her trial and provided regular updates to her family in the Philippines, the Foreign Affairs Department said.

President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman, Mr Salvador Panelo, confirmed that the woman had been executed.

"Our government extended help to this Filipino," Mr Panelo said. "We provided lawyers for her. It's just unfortunate that in this unfortunate case, the Syariah law does not apply where blood money can be a reason to stop the execution."

"We condole with the family, but we tried," he said. "We tried very hard to help."

The announcement came about a year after a dispute between the Philippines and another gulf state, Kuwait, after the body of a Filipino domestic worker was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment there. Her employer was later arrested.

 
 

Mr Duterte responded with anger, barring Filipinos from taking new jobs in Kuwait and calling on those working there to return home. Kuwait later expelled the Philippine ambassador, after embassy staff members attempted what they called rescues of Filipino maids who they said had been abused.

The countries settled their differences in May, with Kuwait agreeing to provide better protection to domestic workers from the Philippines.

About 10 million Filipinos - roughly 10 per cent of the population - live and work abroad, many of them as maids. About 2.3 million work in the Middle East and Africa.

Migrante International, an advocacy group for migrants worldwide, called the woman executed in Saudi Arabia "another casualty of the Philippine government's decades-old labour export programme".

It said Mr Duterte's government "really has no intention of assuming full responsibility" for the welfare of overseas workers.

Saudi Arabia executed a maid from Indonesia in October, leading to protests from that country's government, which said that neither it nor the woman's family had been notified beforehand.

Indonesia also sends many domestic workers to the Middle East and elsewhere.

A rights group said the Indonesian maid, Tuti Tursilawati, had killed her employer while defending herself from sexual assault.