Couple accused of slavery settles related Labor Dept. lawsuit
DENVER ” The Labor Department has tentatively settled a lawsuit against a Saudi couple accused of keeping an Indonesian woman as a virtual slave for four years in their Aurora home, according to a document filed Tuesday in federal court.
Agency attorneys and attorneys for the couple asked a judge to approve the settlement, which would require Homaidan Al-Turki and his wife, Sarah Khonaizan, to pay the woman $64,425 for wages she should have earned while she stayed with the couple.
Al-Turki and Khonaizan face an Oct. 23 federal trial on charges of forced labor, document servitude and harboring an illegal immigrant. They also face a June 12 trial in Arapahoe County District Court on charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment and extortion, and Al-Turki faces additional state charges of sexual assault for allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulting the woman.
Both are free on bond and face up to life in prison if convicted.
A federal indictment released in June said the Indonesian woman, whose name is being withheld by The Associated Press because she is an alleged sexual assault victim, was allegedly paid less than the equivalent of $2 a day over four years to cook, clean house and care for the couple’s five children. The indictment also said she was sometimes loaned out to work for four other families when her host family traveled.
Al-Turki’s attorneys have argued that prosecutors charged him with keeping the woman as a virtual slave because they tried but failed to build a terrorism case against him.
Defense attorney John Richilano has said in court that Al-Turki has been a “person of interest” to federal authorities since 1995 for “having ties to terrorist organizations.”
Prosecutors have denied all such claims, saying the case involving Al-Turki’s former housekeeper is irrelevant to any other investigations of him, and said they have provided all relevant evidence to defense attorneys.
In a court filing Friday, prosecutors acknowledged that Al-Turki and his family have been under surveillance for reasons unrelated to the case involving their former housekeeper. They said the judge should not force the government to give the defense documents or other information stemming from the surveillance.
“The information that the defendant seeks constitutes classified national security information,” the filing said.
Prosecutors said in the filing any disclosure of surveillance tapes or transcripts, surveillance reports or any other evidence obtained through surveillance could jeopardize “significant and vital national security interests,” and said if the judge wanted to review any of the material, it would have to be done behind closed doors under the Classified Information Procedures Act.
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