Saudis hold accused man for $1m in 'blood money'
A Philippine man has won a stay of execution hours before he was due to be beheaded for murdering his landlord in Saudi Arabia.
In exchange for the delay, Saudi officials have given his family four months to raise almost $A1 million in "blood money".
Joselito Zapanta, a construction worker, was sentenced to death after killing his Sudanese landlord in 2009.
The relatives of Salah Ibrahim, who was killed in a dispute with Zapanta, 34, over unpaid rent, agreed to waive the sentence in return for blood money.
The pre-dawn decision to delay the execution came after a Philippine official handed in a written plea for more time to King Abdullah, the Saudi ruler.
Raul Hernandez, a spokesman for the Philippine government, said Saudi officials had granted the delay, but could not defy the wishes of the bereaved.
"The family has been given four months to raise four million riyals [$A963,000]," he said.
Under Saudi law, the family can demand death for a murderer or set a blood-price to compensate for the loss of a relation.
Zapanta's family has raised a tenth of the demand but has appealed to the Philippine government to help to raise the remainder.
After participating in a prayer vigil for Zapanta, a group of relations arrived for what they thought was a last visit with the condemned man early this week.
In the impoverished Philippines, fears have been raised that any award from official funds would set a precedent for other cases involving overseas workers.
An estimated nine million Philippine citizens work abroad, 1.2 million of whom work in Saudi Arabia, and their welfare has become a progressively bigger political issue in recent years.
Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who has campaigned on the issue, made a public appeal for donations. "I appeal to all our countrymen, especially the private sector, let us help in whatever way we can. Miracles can happen. Maybe we will find a way or maybe they will lower the amount [demanded]," he said.
But activists said the government had not done enough for the most troubled members of a workforce that sends back about $A20 billion a year in remittances to their homeland.
"We have been repeatedly suggesting to the Philippine government that a high-level team of diplomats be sent to Saudi Arabia to once and for all look into the individual cases and status of [overseas workers] on death row. That way, they can come up with legal actions and strategies to improve their efforts at saving the lives of OFWs on death row," said John Leonard Monterona, of the Migrante-Middle East group.
Zapanta, a father of two, lost his job as a tile fitter in 2009 after his employer held back six months' pay.
The two men became involved in a dispute over rent soon after and Zapanta killed Ibrahim with a hammer.
He went on the run with Ibrahim's mobile telephone but was tracked down and tried for murder.