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  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 4:18am
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MALAYSIA

Indonesian maid's murder trial in Malaysia angers Jakarta

Indonesian accused of stabbing to death her Malaysian employer could face death penalty

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:26am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:26am

The murder trial of a young Indonesian maid in Malaysia is adding new fuel to a bilateral row over the conditions faced by legions of migrant workers in the country.

Walfrida Soik is on trial in northern Kelantan state for allegedly killing her employer, a 60-year-old Chinese Malaysian woman who suffered from Parkinson's disease.

Soik is accused of stabbing the woman 42 times in 2010.

Her defence argues she was a minor at the time, lured by labour traffickers with false promises, whose employer abused her. She could face death.

The trial is keenly watched in Indonesia, where cases of abuse and exploitation prompted Jakarta to officially ban women taking domestic work in more affluent Malaysia in 2009 for more than two years.

Indonesian politicians have called for clemency, and its media have reported heart-wrenching stories about her.

"On the basis of humanity, we must save (Walfrida) from the death penalty," Anis Hidayah, executive director of Indonesian NGO Migrant Care, wrote on Change.org where the group launched a petition signed 13,000 times.

"Indonesia and Malaysia must together make a commitment to protect women and children, and combat the crime of human trafficking."

Though the trial has been under way since 2012, Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto elevated its profile recently by attending Malaysian court hearings.

"If our legal team, our attorneys are optimistic, we hope for a good result," he was quoted by Indonesian media as saying.

An estimated two million Indonesians toil in plantation, construction, factory and domestic work in Malaysia, which relies on poor foreigners to perform less appealing work.

Soik's lawyer Shafee Abdullah said a trafficker brought her from eastern Indonesia in 2010.

She was issued a passport Shafee said falsely claimed her to be 21 years old - an adult at the time of the crime and eligible for the death penalty. Shafee said Soik is only now 21.

Promised "luxury and fun", she was abused, underfed and overworked, he said, causing "temporary insanity", which could spare her but mean time in a mental institution. A ruling could come next year.

Malaysia has not commented on the diplomatically sensitive case, but Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Ismail Abd Muttalib has said the government is considering measures to "avoid the recurrence of criminal cases involving maids here".

The Indonesian embassy estimates 400,000 women work in Malaysia as maids - about half illegally.

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