Killing of Bangladeshi Female Worker: In landmark verdict, KSA woman given death
A court in Saudi Arabia has handed down death penalty to a Saudi woman and gave different sentences to her husband and son in the case over the murder of Bangladeshi migrant worker Abiron Begum.
Abiron's employer Ayesha al-Jizani, the main accused in the case, was sentenced to death on Sunday for killing the female worker "with a motive", according to a report of Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh.
The Saudi Criminal Court-6 in Riyadh sentenced Ayesha's husband Basem Salem, also employer of Abiron, to imprisonment for three years and two months and fined him 50,000 Saudi Riyal, mentioned the report prepared by the embassy's labour welfare wing.
The court ordered sending the employers' son Walid Basem Salem to a juvenile correction centre for seven months on the charges of non-cooperation to the migrant worker and not arranging her treatment, said the report.
Abiron, who went to Saudi Arabia in 2017, was tortured at her employers' house and killed on March 24, 2019. Her body was kept at a mortuary in the kingdom for seven months before being flown home.
Meanwhile, various organisations working on migrant rights in Bangladesh have termed the verdict "exemplary" and "landmark" judgment, urging Bangladesh missions in different countries to closely monitor and keep track of the incidents of torture and abuse of Bangladeshi migrant workers.
The embassy report mentioned that Basem was found guilty of destroying evidence, not arranging treatment for the domestic worker and illegally employing her outside the residential premises.
In its verdict of "qisas" or retributive justice, the Saudi court mentioned that if any of the parties feel aggrieved by the judgment, they will be able to file an appeal with the court concerned within 30 days.
The three convicts attended Sunday's court hearing virtually from jail. First Secretary Shafiqul Islam represented the Bangladesh embassy at the hearing.
Earlier on January 6, the court rejected the bail petitions of the three accused.
The expatriates' welfare ministry yesterday circulated a copy of the report, along with a press statement, to the media.
The ministry said it will provide all kinds of support to migrant workers for ensuring justice for them.
Talking to The Daily Star, Shariful Hasan, head of the Brac Migration Programme, said the verdict is "exemplary" in the labour migration sector and one of very few of its kind.
"The verdict will give a message to Saudi employers."
He hoped this will make Saudi employers think twice before torturing or abusing foreign workers.
Mentioning that 500 bodies of female migrant workers were brought home from abroad in the last five years, Shariful said that if more verdicts like this are delivered, the number of incidents of torture and abuse will go down.
He urged Bangladesh missions abroad to follow up incidents of torture and killing of Bangladeshi migrant workers.
In a statement, Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) described the verdict as a "landmark" one.
In Saudi Arabia, there are only a few examples of state-sponsored initiative to start trial and deliver verdict in case of torture or killing of Bangladeshi migrant workers there, it said.
"Such a landmark judgement in the Middle East will be a milestone in upholding workers' dignity and ensuring their rights," reads the statement.
The BNWLA called for speedy execution of the verdict.
With the help of a local agent named Rabiul, Abiron from Khulna's Paikgachha went to the kingdom through a recruiting agency in the capital.
Her family alleged that Abiron endured severe physical assault at her employer's house where she worked as a domestic help. When she talked to her sister the last time, she spoke of brutal torture she had suffered.
Eight people were living in the house at that time. The employers would not give her food and even used to pour hot water on her. Later, her family lost contact with her.
Abiron's body was brought to Bangladesh on October 24, 2019, through the Wage Earners Welfare Board. In her death certificate, it was mentioned that she was murdered.
Later, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) formed a fact-finding committee headed by its member Nomita Halder.
On November 25, Nomita visited Abiron's home in Paikgachha and talked to the victim's family members. She also spoke to the recruiting agency, ministries and embassies and submitted a detailed report on December 15 that year.
The report said Abiron was tortured and beaten to death. It also pointed out negligence of the agent, recruiting agencies and government officials.
A case was filed in Khulna under the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012. Rabiul was made the main accused in the case.
The NHRC recommended legal action, compensation for the murder and exemplary punishment to the accused.
After getting the power of attorney from Abiron's family, the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh represented her family at the Saudi court and the trial began on December 16 last year.