Indonesian embassy in Saudi raises IDR15.2 billion in blood money to free domestic worker on death row

Protester outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Jakarta on November 2, 2018, demanding an end to the death penalty and greater protections for Indonesian migrant workers in the Middle Eastern kingdom. Photo: Migrant CARE
(@migrantcare) / Twitter
Protester outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Jakarta on November 2, 2018, demanding an end to the death penalty and greater protections for Indonesian migrant workers in the Middle Eastern kingdom. Photo: Migrant CARE (@migrantcare) / Twitter

The Indonesian Embassy in Saudi Arabia today shared the amazing news that an Indonesian domestic worker has been freed from death row in the Middle Eastern kingdom following almost 19 years of legal uncertainty.

Ambassador Agus Maftuh Abegebriel said in a statement that the embassy had made a payment of IDR15.2 billion (4 million Saudi riyal or US$1.08 million) to the local government for the freedom of an elderly domestic worker named Ety Bt Toyyib Anwar, who was accused of murdering her employer through negligence at her job which caused his illness and eventual death in 2001.

Ety was put on death row 16 years ago but has now been freed after the Indonesian Embassy paid the victim’s family’s diya — a term that is often translated as “blood money” and describes the money a family can legally demand to forgive those convicted of a crime against them and have their sentences commuted.

After the amount for the diya was agreed on by all parties last November (previously reported to be IDR20 billion), the embassy only had seven months to collect the money. According to Ambassador Agus, they received IDR12.5 billion, or 80% of the diya, from a charity wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia and the world’s largest Islamic organization.

But the embassy still had to raise the remaining 20% with the deadline fast approaching. Thankfully, the victim’s family agreed to postpone the deadline twice, the latest being early July.

Thankfully, many donated to the cause and the full payment was made just before the deadline.

“The 4 million riyal was collected at the last moments, some 24 hours before the July 3 deadline,” Agus wrote in his statement, as picked up by Detik.

There are reportedly at least still 12 other Indonesian citizens currently on death row in Saudi Arabia. In November last year, an Indonesian domestic worker named Tuty Tursilawati was executed without prior notice to Indonesian officials for murdering her employer, which she said was done in self defense from sexual abuse. In March, another Indonesian migrant worker, Zaini Misri, was also executed in Saudi Arabia without prior notice to Indonesian officials.

Zaini’s execution temporarily strengthened Indonesia’s conviction to resume its moratorium on migrant workers being sent to the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. However, on Oct. 11, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia entered into an agreement on a pilot project to send a limited number of Indonesian migrant workers to the kingdom under the promise of better protection, thereby bypassing the moratorium, which was introduced in 2015.

Migrant workers advocacy group Migrant Care has urged the Indonesian government to scrap the agreement following Tuty’s execution.

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