A top level Sri Lankan delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila, left the Saudi Kingdom yesterday after meeting with several Saudi officials to seek clemency for Rizana Nafeek, who was found guilty of murdering an infant child, opening the way for her to be publicly beheaded, agency reports said yesterday.
An Arab Times story filed from Riyadh said that the question of whether Nafeek will be publicly beheaded for murder is now in the hands of a three-judge panel in Al-Dawadmi.
It also said: The woman, who was 17, at the time she came to the Kingdom to work in 2005, as a housemaid for a Saudi family near Riyadh, claims the four-month-old baby, she was told to care for, accidentally choked to death. The death occurred in the maidsecond week on the job.
Rizana Nafeek was found guilty of murder, rather than accidental death on June 16, by a panel of three judges. Earlier this month the Sri Lankan mission in Saudi Arabia succeeded in filing a last-minute appeal, which has temporarily put execution off the table pending the outcome of the Cassation Court trial.
Meanwhile, Lankan officials are moving forward with petitioning the family of the child to give up their private right to sue Nafeek, who is now 19 years old according to her Sri Lankan birth certificate. As of yesterday the parents of the child have not backed down with their request to execute the young woman for what they say was a premeditated act of murder.
An attorney has now been retained for Nafeek`s appeal trial.
`We are currently preparing a detailed objection to file at court with all the details related to the case,` the lawyer, Kateb Al-Shammari, told Arab News.
One of the key contentions of the appeals trial will center on Nafeek`s age. Nafeek`s Lankan passport says she was 23 when the death of the child took place. Her birth certificate puts her at 17 when the death occurred, which would have made her a minor at the time of the incident. Nafeek claims that her recruiter in Sri Lanka provided these falsified documents to her in order to illegally meet the age requirements for employment in Saudi Arabia, which prohibits the import of minors as workers. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has signed an international agreement not to impose the death penalty on minors, defined as persons under the age of 18.
`It is obvious that unscrupulous foreign employment firms in Sri Lanka have forged her birth date to get her in the country,` Al-Shammari said.
The lawyer also claims that the confession obtained by police after Nafeek was detained should be tossed out because it was obtained without Nafeek`s ability to fully understand what was going on during the interrogation.
`She clearly denied any wrongdoing in court,` he said. `She mentioned that she was not totally aware of what she has been accused of due to the lack of a translator.`
Al-Shammari said he had met with the visiting Sri Lankan delegation in his office in Riyadh.
`I explained to them the court procedures in the Kingdom and assured them that the Saudi legal system does not differentiate between a local and a foreigner,` he said.
The attorney said the court trials were still in its initial stage and there was no need for the intervention of human rights organizations.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has already intervened to some extent by helping to raise funds to pay Al-Shammari`s SR150,000 fee. Al-Shammari was retained as an attorney after AHRC orchestrated the drive to come up with the money for Nafeek`s defense, some of which has been donated by Lankan citizens working in the Kingdom. The group is still working to come up with the rest of the money.
Nafeek is currently being held at a women`s prison facility in Al-Dawadmi, the town 340 km outside of Riyadh where the Saudi family that hired Nafeek lives.
Accompanying the deputy minister was Ibrahim Sahib Ansar, director general of Middle East and North African Affairs at the Lankan Ministry of Foreign affairs as well as a representative from the Foreign Employment Bureau. Rizana`s father, Mohammed Nafeek, and mother, Razeena, also accompanied the delegation.