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Wed 3 Aug 2011 04:28 PM

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Emirati naval officer takes the stand in US maid trial

Col. Al-Ali tells court that his former maid was “happy” to work for his family in the US

Emirati naval officer takes the stand in US maid trial
Col. Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali has denied the charges against him

An Emirati naval officer accused of forcing his servant to
work unpaid has said he paid the woman in cash before taking her to America, it
was reported Wednesday.

Col. Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali told the US court
that Filipina Elizabeth Cabitla Ballesteros led a comfortable life while
working for his family in his Rhode Island home, Associated Press reported.

Al-Ali is charged with fraud in foreign labour contracting,
which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He was acquitted on
Tuesday of lying to a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, the
newswire said.

The Emirati said that Ballesteros was “happy” to accompany
the family to the US and claimed she asked to be paid for her work in cash. The
two signed a contract, which promised Ballesteros $1,600 a month.

“I gave her all the money in dirham,” he told the court.

On accusations of working long hours Al-Ali told the court
Ballesteros’ only responsibility was babysitting his four-year old son. Her
daily duties, he said, finished at 8.30pm.

He also claimed to his wife and children cleaned their
rented home while his wife cooked for the family.

Ballesteros on Tuesday told the court she felt like she was
working in a prison for a “master” during her period of employment with Al-Ali.
The former maid said she was barred from speaking to outsiders, was forced to
work long hours and had her passport confiscated.

Ballesteros, who said she was not paid for her work, had
previously told the court Al-Ali had forced her to sign a document falsely
affirming she received 12 monthly payments of $1,600.

“I couldn’t take it anymore — my work and the way they were
treating me," she said.

Al-Ali, a student at the US Naval War College in Rhode
Island, forced her to work seven days a week, often until midnight, without pay
and refused to let her leave the house alone, the court was told in an arraignment
hearing in April.

Al-Ali had brought the woman to the US in July 2010 to work
as a household servant for himself, his wife and his five children.

The trial continues.

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