Dubai court upholds 15-year jail sentence for maid torturer

DUBAI (AFP) - A Dubai court has upheld a 15-year jail term for an Emirati woman who tortured her Ethiopian maid to death by forcing her to drink pesticide, media reported Monday.

The 46-year-old housewife was also accused of torturing a Filipina maid and beating up a third domestic worker whose nationality was not specified, Gulf News reported.

Her husband, also an Emirati, was jailed for three years for "aiding and abetting the crime", the daily said.

The woman starved her Ethiopian maid, "forced her to drink pesticide and denied her treatment after she developed pneumonia, resulting in the woman's death", the Gulf News said.

Her husband had confined the maids to a room in the couple's villa and sealed the windows, it said.

The Filipina maid testified at Sunday's hearing that the housewife beat them with sticks, banged their heads against walls until they bled, and forced them to drink detergent.

"She used to strip us, take pictures of us naked and threaten to send them to our friends," Gulf News quoted her as saying.

She said their employer "offered me a huge sum of money to keep silent" following the death of the Ethiopian maid, identified by The National as Khadija Kamel.

The Filipina said her employer had forced her to drink detergents because she disapproved of the way the maid cleaned the bathroom, the newspapers reported.

The husband and wife have denied the charges and have 30 days to appeal at the Court of Cassation.

The United Arab Emirates and other wealthy Gulf states have come in for repeated criticism from rights groups over their treatment of millions of foreign workers, mostly Asians.

Rights groups and activists frequently report cases of employers in the Gulf torturing maids.

Watchdogs have also criticised the sponsorship system in force in most Gulf states, under which workers must be sponsored by an employer, and which has been likened to modern-day slavery.

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