Mon, 06 Mar 2000

Alwi to leave for UAE to save maid on death row

JAKARTA (JP): Foreign minister Alwi Shihab says he will go to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) later this month to plead for the life of Indonesian maid Kartini bin Karim, who has been sentenced to death for adultery.

Alwi said here on Saturday that he intended to go to Abu Dhabi after going on the haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

"I will go there (UAE) after my haj pilgrimage. Don't worry, in the end she will survive," Alwi assured journalists.

"We are trying to persuade the court to see Kartini as a powerless maid, and maybe she confessed to the charge because of pressure from other parties," Alwi added, noting that Kartini's case and sentencing occurred without the knowledge of the Indonesian Embassy there.

Manpower ministry's Director General of Labor Placement Din Syamsuddin is expected to leave for UAE on Monday along with women activists to help the migrant worker seek clemency.

Earlier on Thursday, State Minister of the Empowerment of Women Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who was on a visit to New York, on behalf of the Indonesian government went one step further by lodging a request through Emirate officials at the UN to help Kartini in her plight.

"On behalf of the Indonesian government, I have asked the UAE representative to the United Nations, Mohammed J. Samhan, for amnesty for Kartini" Parawansa was quoted by Antara as saying in New York.

The 35-year-old maid was sentenced on Feb. 28 in a court hearing to be stoned to death for adultery with Indian citizen Muhammad Sulaiman Frangoan. She gave birth to her baby five months ago.

Kartini had worked in the Emirates since February 1998 in Fujairah city as a housemaid, while Muhammed was also employed there.

Indonesian Embassy in Abu Dhabi in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post said the UAE government had granted an Indonesian appeal for Kartini on Feb. 29 which would be heard in before a court on March 6.

The appeal was accepted on the consideration that Kartini is a foreign citizen and cannot fluently speak the local language.

Kartini has been advised to reject the services of local lawyers as the embassy will provide one for her.

The embassy said it only learned of Kartini's fate on Feb. 28. It claimed it had not been notified of the case by local police, Kartini's employers, agency or even the Fujairah court.


Alwi, who is known as a noted Muslim scholar, on Saturday also threw his support behind the argument put forth by Minister of Religious Affairs Tolchah Hasan who earlier last week contended that there was nothing in Islamic law stating that an unmarried women should be sentenced to death for adultery.

Alwi said the major problem in Kartini's case was the absence of a translator and that the indictment was read out without the understanding of Kartini as the defendant.

"She did not even understand the questions from the court," he remarked, adding that the Indonesian government was now providing legal assistance and a translator for Kartini.

Alwi pledged that this latest case only reaffirmed the government's commitment to strengthen the protection for Indonesian migrant workers around the world to avoid this kind of incident from occurring again.

"The government has an obligation to protect its citizens, even when they are guilty," he remarked.

Nevertheless, Alwi said that the latest case was a delicate issue that should be handled carefully. He said one of his office's main goals was to ensure continued good relations between the two governments. (dja)