JAKARTA // Indonesia, which has come under fire from abroad for its use of the death sentence, has decided is to bar its citizens from going to Saudi Arabia to work after an Indonesian maid was beheaded for murdering her Saudi employer.
The beheading has also renewed complaints against President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government over the lack of protection for its citizens working overseas, mostly as maids and construction workers.
"I decided to apply a moratorium on sending Indonesian workers to Saudi Arabia, to be in effect on August 1, but starting from today, steps toward this have begun," Mr Yudhoyono said yesterday in a national address.
The moratorium will apply "until Indonesia and Saudi Arabia can come to an agreement to give rights necessary for Indonesian workers", he added.
There are about 1.2 million Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, most working as maids, who are a valuable source of foreign exchange reserves and help reduce unemployment in South East Asia's top economy.
The country's foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, said Indonesia cannot interfere in other country's legal process, as it has also refused interference from other countries such as Australia whose citizens face the death sentence in Indonesia.
The beheading has prompted calls from Indonesian rights activists for the scrapping of the death penalty. Indonesia carries out executions by firing squad.
Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia this week in protest over Saturday's execution of Ruyati binti Sapubi, 54, who was convicted of murdering her Saudi employer, Khairiya bint Hamid Mijlid, with a meat cleaver, saying it had also not been given prior notice.
"The [Saudi] ambassador apologised and regretted the situation and said that such a thing wouldn't happen again in future," the foreign ministry spokesman, Michael Tene, said.
The maid carried out the killing after she was denied permission to leave the kingdom and return to her family in Indonesia.
In a second case, a court in Riyadh had sentenced the Indonesian maid Darsem to death for murdering her Yemeni employer in December 2007 in what she called an act of self-defence as the employer had tried to rape her.
Indonesian officials had said she could escape the sentence if she received a pardon from the family, who forgave her in January on the condition that she pays the compensation or "diyat" of 2 million riyals (Dh1.96m).
The Indonesian government will pay the compensation.
Twenty-three Indonesians face execution in Saudi Arabia, where murderers are beheaded in public.
* Reuters with additional reporting Agence France-Presse