Saudi princess is sued by maid
By Susan Clary | Sentinel Staff Writer Posted December 20, 2001
A woman who filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court on Wednesday against the Saudi Arabian princess she waited on for three years described the relationship to her Winter Park attorney as one of slave and master.
In addition to cooking, cleaning and laundering clothes, Ismiyati Memet Suryono said she stayed by Princess Buniah al-Saud 24 hours a day. She stood at the shower to open and close the curtain when the princess bathed, she said, and was not allowed to close her bedroom door at night in case the princess needed her.
"Whatever in the world the princess wanted, she had to do," said attorney Russell Troutman. "Whenever the princess had a whim, she had to comply."
Al-Saud, the niece of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, was arrested Monday night on charges she beat Suryono on Friday and pushed her down a flight of stairs. On Tuesday, the princess was accused of stealing from her former driver and selling his TV and other property for $6,000.
Suryono, 36, who had been named in police reports as Memet Ismiyati, is seeking more than $15,000 in damages for the emotional and physical abuse she alleges she suffered at the hands al-Saud, and for back pay she said the princess owes her, court records show.
She has requested the case be heard by a judge rather than a jury.
Al-Saud was released Tuesday after posting $5,000, and Russell Crawford, the criminal defense attorney who represented her at her bond hearing, thinks she has left for Washington. An Orange County judge had given her permission to travel there.
The princess had been living in Orange County while attending the University of Central Florida to learn English through the ASPECT International Language Academies. Troutman said Suryono had not told him whether she attended classes with her or waited outside.
Bud Bennington, al-Saud's civil attorney, did not return calls Wednesday.
Troutman said late Wednesday that he hired an investigator to track down the princess to serve her with the lawsuit, which uses her full name, Her Royal Highness Princess Buniah Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. She is the daughter of one of the Saudi Arabian king's brothers.
Through an Indonesian interpreter, Suryono told Troutman Wednesday that she worked for the princess in Saudi Arabia, where she was paid the equivalent of $160 a week. The princess raised her salary to $200 a week when they moved to Central Florida but deducted for some meals and other things, Suryono said.
On a 911 tape released Tuesday by the Orange County Sheriff's Office, Suryono, who has an 18-year-old son in Indonesia, told an interpreter that she was promised $400 a month before they left for America. On the tape, she told the interpreter she had to pay for her own meals when they ate at Olive Garden and when they stayed in a $400-a-night hotel in Orlando, the princess made her pay for things she could not afford.
The 911 tape is more than two hours long and reveals the frustration of language and cultural differences. Dispatch operators and deputy sheriffs had a difficult time understanding the situation, and Suryono, who was upset, had a hard time explaining. Troutman said that for these reasons, he was shielding his client from the media. He said she is shy and he wants to protect her.
According to a complaint filed Wednesday, the princess beat Suryono during a period of months, culminating in the assault on Friday at the Towne Place apartments in Hunter's Creek, where the women shared an apartment. Suryono was transported to Florida Hospital in Kissimmee, where she was treated and released.
She is said to be staying with a friend now, after being counseled by a victim's advocate.
The lawsuit claims Suryono had not been paid wages for several months, she did not speak English, she had no place to go but to "continue to endure repeated if not daily acts of violence." The lawsuit said Suryono, at 4 feet, 11 inches tall and 100 pounds, could not defend herself.
"I have never seen such a submissive, sublimating woman," Troutman said. "She was ignorant of our system and no one told her there was a remedy."