Filipina maid's family thanks victim's son

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Al-Ain - The family of Sarah Balabagan, the 16-year-old Filipina maid condemned to death in the United Arab Emirates for killing her employer, yesterday thanked the family of the man she killed for sparing their daughter from execution.

"We want to convey our sincerest gratitude to the family,'' Sarah's mother, Bai, said in the house in this oasis town where her daughter stabbed Almas Mohammad al-Baloushi to death last year. ''We will never forget in what you have done," the maid's father, Karim, told the dead man's eldest son, Faraj. "I want to convey that we are grateful for your decision."

The families sipped tea together during a half-hour meeting. Obeid Baloushi, a son of the dead man, said later: "Anything the government wants I will accept. I can't do otherwise. They told us to forgive. We can't say no."

The Baloushi family dropped their demand that the death sentence, imposed four weeks ago, be carried out.

They relented on Saturday in return for $41,000 blood money after the intervention of Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahayan, President of the UAE. Under Islamic law, the family of a murder victim can accept compensation instead of execution of the killer.

Sarah Balabagan was condemned to death at a retrial for the murder of Baloushi last year. At her first trial, she was sentenced to seven years, but Sheikh Zaid ordered a retrial. Sarah argued she acted in self-defence during a rape when she stabbed Baloushi 34 times.

But in the retrial, she was convicted of premeditated murder rather than manslaughter and sentenced to die.

The court also overturned the earlier verdict that she had been raped. What happens next was not clear. Her appeal against the death sentence has been adjourned until 30 October.