Malaysia judge ups woman's sentence for maid abuse

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A Malaysian woman sentenced to eight years in jail for abusing her Indonesian maid is "shocked" after a judge added three more years when she tried to appeal, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Hau Yuan Tyng, a 45-year-old mother of two, was convicted last year of inflicting horrific wounds on her domestic helper Siti Hajar, using a hammer, scissors and scalding water.

Siti, 35, escaped from her employer's upmarket condo and made her way to the Indonesian embassy. Pictures of severe injuries all over her body were splashed in newspapers, heightening a row with Indonesia over the treatment of maids.

A furore over a string of shocking abuse cases led Indonesia to slap a ban in June 2009 on maids working in Malaysia, causing a shortage that has left tens of thousands of households without help.

Hau's lawyer said she had become a casualty of the row between the neighbouring nations, after a Sessions Court judge on Tuesday turned down her appeal and slapped the extra years on her sentence.

"She is a victim of the political situation between Indonesia and Malaysia on this maid issue which has caused some tension between the two countries. This is not the way to please the Indonesian government," said M. Manoharan.

"She is shocked, she can't believe it," he said of his client, who has denied harming her helper and has already launched another attempt to overturn her conviction.

"I am confident of getting her fully acquitted, I don't think she should spend even a day in prison because she didn't do it," Manoharan told AFP.

Sessions Court Judge Ghazali Cha rejected Hau's appeal, saying that cases of maid abuse were too frequent.

"Although I sympathise with the appellant as a single mother, who has a disabled child, and had to work to support her children, she showed no remorse for what she had done to the victim," he said, according to state media.

"Maids should not be used as slaves. They have feelings and need to be protected, moreover it involves relations between the two neighbouring countries."

Maids from Indonesia, who toil in Malaysia for as little as 400 ringgit (130 dollars) a month, have no laws governing their working conditions and the two nations are currently negotiating a formal labour agreement.

Malaysia has agreed to give maids one day off a week and allow them to hold on to their passports -- which had been routinely retained by employers -- but the talks have stumbled over a request for a minimum wage.