Saudi Arabia releases Indonesian maids sentenced to death for ‘witchcraft’

Saudi Arabia has released two Indonesian domestic workers who were sentenced to death for practicing “witchcraft” against their employers. The Director for citizen protection and legal aid at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, said on Wednesday that the two women, Sumartini and Warnah, had been released after serving 10 years in prison.

Iqbal explained that a court in Riyadh sentenced the two workers to death in 2009 but the sentence was commuted earlier this year after a decade of negotiations between Jakarta and the Kingdom.

“After going through tough negotiations,” Indonesia’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Agus Maftuh Abegebriel told reporters, “the embassy managed to convince the Saudi government to let the women leave for their homeland.”

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Sumartini was accused of using black magic to hide her employer’s 17-year-old son, who was later found alive, while Warnah was accused of casting a “spell” on her employer’s wife that made her suffer from illness.

At least ten Indonesian citizens are on death row in Saudi Arabia. Activists have been demanding the release of the domestic workers and staged protests during the visit of King Salman Bin AbdulAziz to Jakarta in 2017.

Last year, the Indonesian government filed a formal protest with Riyadh after it executed one of its citizens in October without informing her family or consular staff. The domestic worker was sentenced to death for killing her employer, which she claimed was in self-defence in the face of rape.