August 22, 2007 / 12:54 PM / 10 years ago

Indonesian maid held in Saudi after "magic" attack

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi police have detained an Indonesian maid after two of her colleagues were killed on suspicion they were involved in black magic, an Indonesian diplomat and newspapers said on Wednesday.

Four maids were attacked this month by seven members of a Saudi household in Aflaj, a desert village south of Riyadh, and two of them died. Saudi papers have said seven Saudis were detained over the incident.

One of the survivors, Tari Tarsim, 27, was taken into custody by police on Monday, an Indonesian diplomat told Reuters.

“The family suspected them of practising magic -- ”sihr“ -- on one of their children who got ill. They suspected one of the four ladies was doing magic,” the diplomat said.

“We have information that on Monday one of the surviving maids was transferred to police custody. We don’t know why she was transferred.”

The Saudi authorities did not inform the embassy of the deaths or that one of the women, all Muslims, was detained, he said. The Indonesian embassy has appointed a lawyer to represent the surviving women if they face legal procedures.

An Interior Ministry spokesman was unavailable to comment.

The belief that magic can have a negative affect on other people is prevalent in many Muslim countries.

U.S.-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said on Friday the case showed that Saudi Arabia was not doing enough to stop the abuse of foreign domestic maids.

Around one third of Saudi Arabia’s population of more than 24 million are foreigners, mostly Asian blue-collar workers who rights groups say lack legal protection.

The Labour Ministry has acknowledged there are problems with workers’ rights. The government often says Islamic law ensures protection for both Muslims and non-Muslims and reminds foreigners that they are guests in the country.

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