April 15, 2015

Indonesia protests Saudi’s beheading of its citizen but will execute Nigerian, others

Jakarta summoned the Saudi Arabian ambassador Wednesday to protest the beheading of an Indonesian domestic worker and complain that her family and consular staff were not given prior notice of the execution.

Saudi authorities said Siti Zainab was executed Tuesday in the Muslim holy city of Medina after being convicted of stabbing and beating Saudi woman Noura al-Morobei to death in 1999.

Human rights groups have used Zainab’s beheading to urge Indonesia to abandon its support for the death penalty, as Jakarta presses ahead with plans to execute several foreigners on death row for drug crimes.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and three of his predecessors had previously written to the Saudi king asking for the victim’s family to forgive Zainab.

But the sentence was carried out despite Jakarta claiming Zainab’s family and consular officials were not given adequate notice before her execution.

“From the beginning, the government has struggled to provide her with assistance and has asked the family (of the victim) for forgiveness,” Indonesia’s foreign ministry said in a statement received late Tuesday by AFP.

“The Indonesian government filed a protest against the Saudi Arabian government for not giving prior notification to Indonesian representatives or to the family over the execution date.”

The Saudi interior ministry said Zainab’s execution was delayed until the victim’s children were old enough to decide whether the punishment should proceed.

Riyadh’s ambassador to Indonesia Mustafa Ibrahim Al-Mubarak said he was “surprised” to be summoned by the foreign ministry but would follow up on Jakarta’s concerns.

“The problem is not about the court and the execution, it is about the date of the execution,” he told reporters.

“I have to check what went wrong.”

Migrant Care, an NGO advocating for the rights of Indonesian workers abroad, condemned the execution and claimed Zainab was acting in self defence against an abusive employer.

The group urged Indonesia to abandon the death penalty “as a first step to push other countries to not impose the death penalty on migrant workers”.

Jakarta, however, remains determined to execute several drug traffickers — including citizens from Australia, France, Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil and the Philippines — as soon as possible.

Indonesia executed six drug offenders in January, including five foreigners, prompting a furious Brazil and the Netherlands — whose citizens were among those put to death — to recall their ambassadors.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Indonesia would proceed with the executions as planned, despite protests over Zainab’s case.

“Our commitment is to protect our citizens, that is our priority,” she told reporters late Tuesday.

“But there’s an issue of law enforcement which we have to enforce domestically.”

Amnesty International said the sentence against Zainab was carried out despite suspicions she was mentally ill, adding to what the London-based watchdog calls a “macabre spike” in Saudi executions this year.