Indonesian minister heads to Saudi over maid torture

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JAKARTA: Indonesia’s women’s affairs minister will fly to Saudi Arabia on Friday to check on the investigation into the brutal torture of an Indonesian maid, the foreign minister said.

Linda Agum Gumelar will lead an inter-ministerial team to ensure justice for Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa, 23, whose shocking injuries highlighted the abuse of female migrant workers in the Middle East.

"As ordered by the president (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono), justice must be upheld," foreign ministry spokesman Michael Tene told AFP.

Gumelar will visit Sumiati in a hospital in the Saudi city of Medina where she has been recuperating since November 8 from injures including deep cuts to her lips and face allegedly inflicted with scissors.

Amnesty International appealed to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states on Wednesday to do more to protect migrant domestic workers in the oil-rich kingdom.

The London-based human rights watchdog said the maid’s treatment, which Yudhoyono on Tuesday described as "extraordinary torture," symbolized the plight of foreign workers in the region.

"Women who go to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to be domestic workers face abuse and exploitation," the watchdog’s Middle East and North Africa director, Malcolm Smart, said.

"At the root of the problem is the failure of the governments of the Gulf states to uphold the rights of women migrant domestic workers.

"Workers from countries like Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka underpin the Gulf states’ economies — it is high time that they got a fair deal," he said.

Indonesia summoned Saudi ambassador Abdulrahman Alkhayat on Monday to express its deep concern.

The envoy on Thursday said what happened to Sumiati was "barbaric".

He said no arrests had been made as a result of the ongoing investigation, and rejected suggestions that such abuse was all-too common in his country, saying he would "pray to God" to prevent similar abuses in future.

"We haven’t made any arrest and we have to wait for the result of the investigation," he told a news conference in Jakarta.

"There are more than one million Indonesian workers in Saudi. What happened to Sumiati is a very rare occurrence and we pray to God that this won’t happen again."

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