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Saudi withdraws Sri Lanka envoy in execution tiff

Countries at odds since January beheading of domestic worker convicted for murder

  • AP
  • Published: 15:46 February 20, 2013
  • Gulf News

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia says it has recalled its ambassador to Sri Lanka following a similar move by the South Asian nation to protest the kingdom’s beheading of a Sri Lankan domestic worker last month.

The two countries have been at odds since the January execution of Rizana Nafeek, who was convicted in the death of a Saudi baby in her care in 2005.

The case spurred global appeals for leniency because she was 17 at the time of the infant’s death. She had denied strangling the four-month-old boy.

The official Saudi Press Agency said on Wednesday that the ambassador was called to Riyadh for consultations. Sri Lanka withdrew its ambassador to the Gulf kingdom after the execution.

The UN’s human rights body had expressed “deep dismay” at the beheading, and the European Union said it had asked the Saudi authorities to commute the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia “deplored” world reaction to the beheading at the time. The government spokesman condemned what he called “wrong information on the case,” and denied that the maid was a minor when she committed the crime.

“As per her passport, she was 21 years old when she committed the crime,” he said, adding that “the kingdom does not allow minors to be brought as workers”.

He said the authorities had tried hard to convince the baby’s family to accept “blood money” but they rejected any amnesty and insisted that the maid be executed.

Human Rights Watch said Nafeek had retracted “a confession” that she said was made under duress. She said the baby accidentally choked to death while drinking from a bottle.

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