JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia, which has come under fire from abroad for its use of the death sentence, has decided is to bar its citizens from Saudi Arabia to work after an Indonesian maid was beheaded for murdering her Saudi employer.
The beheading has also renewed complaints against President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government over the lack of protection for its citizens working overseas, mostly as maids and construction workers.
"I decided to apply a moratorium on sending Indonesian workers to Saudi Arabia, to be in effect on August 1, but starting from today, steps toward this have begun," Yudhoyono said on Thursday on a live TV broadcast.
The moratorium will apply "until Indonesia and Saudi Arabia can come to an agreement to give rights necessary for Indonesian workers," he added.
There are about 1.2 million Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, most of them working as maids, who are a valuable source of foreign exchange reserves and help reduce unemployment in Southeast Asia's top economy.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Indonesia cannot interfere in other country's legal process, as it has also refused interference from other countries such as Australia whose citizens face the death sentence in Indonesia.
The beheading has prompted calls from Indonesian rights activists for the scrapping of the death penalty. Indonesia carries out executions by firing squad. Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia this week in protest over Saturday's execution of the 54-year-old maid, saying it had also not been given prior notice.
Twenty-three Indonesians currently face execution in Saudi Arabia, where people convicted of murder are beheaded in public. Yudhoyono promised reform of the system for sending workers abroad.
(Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Nick Macfie)