Mission To Seek Clemency For Jailed Filipina

RIYADH, 13 August 2003 — The Philippine Embassy will seek royal clemency for a Filipina, Sarah Jane Dematera, who has been in a Saudi jail for 11 years. Sarah, who arrived in 1992 to work as a maid for a Saudi family, was charged with the murder of her employer’s wife a few days after her arrival, according to a Philippine Embassy spokesman, Ray Banda. A Saudi court found her guilty in November 1993, sentenced her to death and sent her to jail to await execution.

Banda said: “The death sentence has been suspended until the dead woman’s minor children have reached maturity, when they can join her other heirs in requesting execution.” The embassy and other parties have been negotiating to reach a compromise concerning the blood money and so save Sarah’s life. Banda said, “Sarah’s name will be sent to the Saudi government this year for a royal pardon.” His statement came in response to a question about the case which is now included by Human Rights Watch in its file “Human Rights Documents on Saudi Arabia.”

A non-governmental organization in the Philippines, Kanlungan Center Foundation, has also taken up Sarah’s case and is seeking clemency. Kanlungan has a detailed case file along with translated documents from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1993 until 1998, no member of Sarah’s family was able to visit her.

Finally in February 1998, a Kanlungan representative and Sarah’s mother traveled to Saudi Arabia and met her in Dammam Women’s Prison. Her mother also visited her a second time in November 2001. Kanlungan has emphasized the severe communication problems Sarah had at her trial because she was not fluent in either Arabic or English.

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs says that consular officials visited Sarah in October 2002 and found her apparently physically healthy. According to Kanlungan, however, she suffers from depression and needs tranquilizers in order to sleep.

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