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Jakarta scrabbles to save 3 workers due to die in Saudi

But with only days left, few expect them to be spared for killing bosses

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Jakarta scrabbles to save 3 workers due to die in Saudi

Activists and relatives of migrant workers stage a rally at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta in 2016 rejecting the death penalty for migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. (Photo supplied by Migrant Care)

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Three Indonesian migrant workers sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for killing their employers are due to be executed this month unless last-ditch efforts from Jakarta can force a reprieve.

Former housemaid Tuti Tursilawati and Ety Thoyyib, both from Majalengka in West Java, and Muhammad Zaini Misrin from Madura in East Java are scheduled for execution "sometime" within the next six days, a local government official said.

A fixed date has not been set, he added.

A Saudi Arabian court sentenced them to death in 2011.

However the foreign ministry is racing against time and lobbying Riyadh for clemency, according to Lalu Mohamad Iqbal, director of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry's Citizen Protection Bureau.

"We are struggling to get them released," Iqbal told on Feb. 19.

The government has managed to get 79 of 100 Indonesians off death row from 2011 until January 2018, he said, adding none of the previous cases involved a murder charge.

"The government offers legal assistance for any case involving Indonesians in Saudi Arabia. We are [still] struggling to free those who are accused of murder," he said.

At least four maids have been executed for killing their employers in Saudi in recent years, according to Migrant Care, a group that focuses its attention on Indonesian foreign laborers.

Migrant Care gave their names as Yanti Iriyanti, who was executed in 2008, Ruyati (2011), Siti Zaenab (2015) and Karni (also 2015).

Risca Dwi, chairwoman of the Migrant Woman Protection Bureau at Women Solidarity, said the government must use its bargaining power and diplomacy as leverage in this case to help the workers.

"But I doubt they will be freed," she said.

"Saudi Arabia's legal system has become a stumbling block because the king lacks the authority to pardon or release convicts who face a death sentence."

She said Jakarta could approach another council in Saudi Arabia that is empowered to issue pardons but the chances of success were slim.

"The government must be able to convince the council because it has the authority to release them," she told Feb. 19.

"But it's difficult to get them to listen for murder cases," she added.

Iti Sarniti, the mother of Tuti Tursilawati, can only sit and count the agonizing days until her daughter is executed.

"I'm terrified she really is going to die," Sarniti told, explaining that Tursilawati had gone to Saudi Arabia in 2009 to work for a family in Thaif city, where she was taking care of an elderly person.


Review of moratorium

Wahyu Susilo, the executive director of Migrant Care, called on the government to review its 2015 moratorium on sending workers to the wealthy Arab state.

It was not enforced until the end of 2017, a year in which over 36,000 Indonesians headed to the region to work.

"It should be re-evaluated because many Indonesians have been sent to work there illegally despite the moratorium being implemented," Susilo said.

He said they could face considerable hardship there as their status would render them vulnerable to exploitation with no guarantee of human rights protection.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan, coordinator of the human rights desk for the Indonesian Bishops' Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People, urged the government to monitor migrant workers who head to Saudi Arabia.

"The government should sanction rogue agents in Indonesia so they don't send our people there," he told on Feb. 20.

"This would prevent more from becoming victims," he added.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry said 576 migrant workers from the country have appeared on death lists overseas since 2011, including in Malaysia and the Middle East.

Of those, 393 have been released, it added.

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