RIYADH // A judge in Medina has reversed his previous finding that a Saudi woman, whom he had sentenced to three years in prison, had beaten, stabbed and burnt her Indonesian maid, leaving the 23-year-old horribly disfigured.
The judge's reversal on Saturday came after he was chastised by an appeals court for not following proper procedures, according to Didi Wahyudi, the Indonesian diplomat who has been following the case. The new decision means that prosecutors are unlikely to follow up with criminal charges against the 53-year-old Saudi woman, Mr Wahyudi added.
"Up to now, we don't find justice" in this case, Mr Wayhudi said. "We are going to appeal."
The ruling is likely to further inflame bilateral relations between the kingdom and Indonesia, home to the largest Muslim population in the world. Nearly one million Indonesians work in Saudi Arabia, 80,000 of them as maids, according to the Saudi daily Arab News.
Mr Wayhudi said the maid, Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa, "is very, very disappointed" by the judge's action. She still has not been paid for her four months of work with the woman, he said.
The diplomat, who handles citizen protection at Indonesia's consulate in Jeddah, said he was puzzled by the outcome of Saturday's hearing, particularly since the judge had before him medical and forensic reports, as well as photographs of Ms Mustapa's injuries, taken soon after she was hospitalised last November.
She was admitted in an unconscious state with burns and cuts all over her face, which she said had been inflicted by her employer with scissors and a hot iron.
Hospital worker Miea Mirlina told the Saudi Gazette last November that Ms Mustapa's "body was burned on many places, both legs were almost motionless, some parts of her skin on her head were removed and strong marks of old wounds were on her body including skin loss on lips and head, a fractured middle finger and a cut near an eye. Her body shows how badly she was treated."
Ms Mustapa's employer told the court that the maid had beaten herself.
The case, along with the death in November 2010 of another Indonesian maid, 36-year-old Kikim Komalasari, whose body was found in a street in the southern Saudi town of Abha, pushed the Indonesian government to impose stricter conditions on families seeking to employ its citizens as domestic workers.
Mr Wahyudi said potential employers must pledge that working conditions will be humane, agree to a minimum wage, and present pictures and identity cards for all persons living in the homes where the maids will be working.
Most domestic workers in the kingdom come from extremely poor backgrounds, do not speak Arabic or English, and frequently do not know where they live because there are few street signs in Saudi cities.
In a related development, Arab News reported yesterday that two Saudi women have been arrested on charges of killing another Indonesian housemaid in Mecca, and another Indonesian woman was found hanged in the bathroom of her employer in Madina last week. Mr Wahyudi confirmed both cases, adding that the first maid died of head injuries.