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Last Updated: Monday, 17 December 2007, 17:33 GMT
US 'slavery' couple found guilty
Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani
The Sabhnanis were accused of "modern day slavery"
A wealthy US couple have been convicted of keeping two Indonesian women as slaves in a New York home and abusing them physically and psychologically.

Indian-born Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, and his wife, Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 45, could face up to 40 years in prison.

They were found guilty on 12 charges, which included involuntary servitude, harbouring aliens and forced labour.

The couple's lawyer said he would appeal against the verdict.

The wealthy couple, who run a perfume business and have four children, had brought the women to their large house to work as housekeepers, and forced them to work up to 18 hours per day.

The couple were arrested after one of the women was found wandering the streets dressed in only trousers and a towel.

Regular beatings

Prosecutors described the case as "modern-day slavery".

They described how the two Indonesian women had been punished for misbehaviour such as sleeping late and stealing food from the dustbin to supplement their meagre meals.

Varsha Mahender Sabhnani
Varsha Sabhnani and her husband had pleaded not guilty
The women said they had been beaten with brooms and umbrellas, slashed with knives, made to take freezing showers and climb stairs repeatedly.

One said she had been forced to eat several hot chillies and then her own vomit.

"Apparently, the jury was taken by the histrionics (of the Indonesian women)," defence lawyer Jeffrey Hoffmann told AP.

Lawyers for the accused had argued that the housekeepers practised witchcraft and may have abused themselves.

They had said the couple spent a lot of time abroad and that the two Indonesian women would have been free to leave whenever they wanted.

The pair were described as "model citizens" who wanted only to clear their names.

The women, identified as Nona and Samirah, arrived in the US legally in 2002 but had their passports confiscated by the Sabhnanis, officials said. Their visas have since expired.

SEE ALSO
US 'slavery' couple granted bail
31 May 07 |  Americas
Millionaires on US slavery charge
24 May 07 |  Americas



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