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Rediff.com  » News » Housekeeper slams NRI couple in NY slavery case

Housekeeper slams NRI couple in NY slavery case

November 06, 2007 17:48 IST

A housekeeper, who was allegedly enslaved by a multimillionaire Indian-American couple, gave graphic and chilling details of torture she suffered at the hands of her employers and showed the jury how she was made to scrub the floor three times a day and how she was poked repeatedly with a knife.

51-year-old Samirah from Indonesia, testified before a New York court through an interpreter that she was scalded with hot water for sleeping late, pilfering food as she was not given enough to eat, forced to walk naked to the kitchen, repeatedly beaten and forced to eat 100 chilies.

She was also forced to eat chilly power mixed with salt water and when she vomited, she was asked to eat her own vomit.

Varsha Mahender Sabhnani and Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, who ran a perfume business from their mansion in Long Island, a New York suburb, are accused of enslaving and torturing two Indonesian women they employed for house work.

They are out on a $ 4.5 million bail but under the conditions of the bail, they have to stay in the mansion and pay almost $10,000 a day for the security. If convicted, they could get up to 40 years in jail.

Samirah repeatedly told the court that she pleaded with "the Mrs" -- Varsha Sabhnani -- to let her go back.

She was promised to be paid USD 100 a month which was to be sent to a relative in Indonesia. But she said she did not get any money. The defence lawyers contend that the women indulged in black magic and suggest they might have cut themselves as a part of the ritual. They also contend that the women had sufficient time to escape if they wanted as the couple was often out.

But prosecutors argued the couple kept the women against their will and abused them. Their passports were taken away and since they did not speak English, it was difficult for them to communicate.

In May, Samirah was found loitering near doughnut shop wearing only pants and towel and the employees called the police. She related her story through an interpreter and on that basis, law enforcement agencies searched the house and found another women Enung who is expected to give testimony later.

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