Blood-money sets death-row man free

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Manila - A Filipino sentenced to death by beheading in Saudi Arabia for killing a man he said tried to sexually abuse him is to walk free after blood money was paid to the victim's family, officials said on Friday.

Rodelio “Dondon” Lanuza is expected to be released after more than 12 years in prison following the Saudi government's decision to pay 2.3 million riyals ($615 000) to the victim's family, Vice-President Jejomar Binay said.

“I am glad to announce that our compatriot has been spared from the death penalty,” Binay said in a statement. The remaining $245 000 of the compensation sought by the victim's family was raised by Lanuza's relatives, he added.

The Saudi embassy in Manila confirmed the deal, saying in a statement that Riyadh “has paid the balance of the blood money”.

Under the Saudi legal system, acceptance of blood money leads to the signing of a waiver by the victim's family signifying forgiveness, Binay's office said.

Lanuza, a 39-year-old draughtsman, went to work in Saudi Arabia in 1995. He was sentenced to death after he admitted stabbing his victim to death in 2000.

However, Binay said another Filipino death row prisoner, Joselito Zapanta, is expected to be beheaded soon unless more than $800 000 in blood money is paid to the family of his Sudanese landlord, who he murdered in 2009.

The construction worker won a four-month stay of execution in mid-November to give him more time to raise the amount but is still believed to be a long way short of raising the required funds.

Labour rights monitor Gary Martinez, who runs Migrante International, a migrant workers' rights group, said about 125 Filipinos were on death row abroad - most of them in China on drug convictions.

About nine million Filipinos work overseas. Their remittances are a mainstay of an economy that has struggled to create well-paying domestic jobs. - AFP

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