22 death-row inmates exonerated, repatriated to Indonesia

“Jakarta will be sending a 14-member presidential task force to the Kingdom on April 7 to talk to Saudi officials and to intensify efforts in cooperation with its embassy to rescue the maids,” said Hendrar Pramutyo, spokesman of the Indonesian embassy in Riyadh, on Thursday.
Pramutyo said: “Six housemaids are on death row in Riyadh province alone, whereas about 19 female workers have been handed death sentences in the Western region. We will be attending a court hearing in Dammam next week.”
He added many other workers may not be so fortunate. However, the embassy as well as the Jeddah-based consulate are working hard to secure pardons for the workers, he added.
Such problems are limited to a few countries, he noted.
According to a report published in Indonesian newspaper The Presidential Post, a total of 167 Indonesian nationals are on death row, and 11 others had also been sentenced to death in different countries including Saudi Arabia recently. Most Indonesian nationals sentenced to death had committed either serious criminal offenses or implicated on baseless grounds.
Some 117 are in death row in Malaysia, 20 in China, 25 in Saudi Arabia, and two in Singapore. They can always be acquitted if these countries find them not guilty or a royal pardon is granted, said Pramutyo.
To this end, the spokesman noted the Indonesian government is committed to saving the lives of its citizens. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced last week an extension to the tenure of the special taskforce handling Indonesian migrant workers.
Asked about the total number of convicted workers currently languishing in Saudi jails, the embassy’s spokesman said a total of 1,700 Indonesians were serving prison terms.
“However, thanks to the Saudi government amnesty a large number of them were set free and repatriated back to Indonesia,” said Pramutyo. He pointed out the Indonesian diplomatic missions are still exerting efforts to secure the release of workers in jail for petty crimes.
“We have also asked permission from the host government to allow our presidential task force delegation to visit Saudi jails,” said the spokesman, adding that he is awaiting a response from the Kingdom.  The presidential task force visited the Kingdom on previous occasions, which eventually helped to secure the release of some workers and save some of them from execution. Indonesia created this special task force in July last year to protect migrant workers.
The task force’s members focus on migrant workers facing the death penalty in different countries, including Malaysia, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran. On the question of manpower deployment from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, the spokesman said that there is a still a deadlock. However, the two sides are in touch with each other, he added. The Kingdom has imposed its own boycott on recruitment, while Indonesia also decided to maintain its current ban on recruitment agencies sending workers to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Kuwait.
Indonesia says these countries have not adopted a legal framework that it thinks is sufficient to legally protect its workers and ensure their rights are fulfilled.

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