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Posted On: 10 December 2008 07:54 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

Maid is prisoner of legal ‘blunder’

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A HOUSEMAID has spent 28 months in jail awaiting her trial only to discover her case has come and gone – and she should have served 24 months. The shocked Indonesian is now appealing the court’s guilty verdict and her lawyer is fighting for her release. The 38-year-old maid was charged with conducting an illicit affair in August 2006. It was alleged that she had a relationship with a 29-year-old Sri Lankan driver. When the woman’s sponsor learned of the affair he contacted the police. The maid was imprisoned while awaiting trial, but the driver was released on bail. He subsequently fled the country. The court gave its verdict on March 29, 2007. However, the woman was not brought to give evidence and she was tried in absentia. She was handed a two-year prison term followed by deportation. Recently, the maid discovered the mix-up and was horrified to learn that not only had she been found guilty in her absence, but she had served four months longer than she needed to. According to court papers, the maid and the driver had allegedly confessed to an affair under interrogation. This apparent confession led the court to come to a guilty verdict. Now the maid’s lawyer, Asmaa Ali, is working to secure her client’s release as she waits for a retrial. Last Thursday, the legal representative told presiding judge Osama al-Shinawi that the charge sheet clearly stated that her client was in police custody. And a source further told Gulf Times that the accused woman should not pay the price for the system’s blunder. “It is silly to presume that the housemaid knew about the verdict earlier, that she was somehow enjoying her life behind bars with nice food and hospitality, and then she suddenly became bored,” the source said. Ironically, because the woman has no one to guarantee her turning up for her retrial she remains in custody – and could do so until the case comes to court for a second time. After learning of her plight, Gulf Times contacted the Indonesian embassy, but a spokeswoman said the matter had to be investigated before a decision could be taken to offer her sanctuary. When the case does eventually come back to court, the legal panel from the original trial will be reconvened, in accordance with the law. However, the legal source insisted that someone should be held accountable for failing to ensure the woman was brought to the courtroom on March 12, 2007. “All suspects, regardless of charges against them, are entitled to basic rights. In this case, the simplest one of them – to bring the accused to the courtroom – was violated,” the source said.