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Riyadh urged not to execute Sri Lankan

Domestic worker retracts confession saying it was extracted under duress

Gulf News

New York: Saudi Arabia should halt the execution of a Sri Lankan domestic worker convicted of killing a baby in her care in 2005 when she was 17, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

According to Sri Lankan government sources, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has issued instructions for Rizana Nafeek’s execution.

Under the system of ‘qisas’ (retaliation) that governs murder cases in Saudi Arabia, the baby’s parents may still grant Nafeek a pardon or seek blood money in compensation.

“The Saudi king and interior minister should immediately cancel the execution orders against Nafeek,” said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Saudi officials should then meet with the baby’s family and Sri Lankan authorities to make sure the death penalty won’t be considered again.”

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent an appeal to King Abdullah on January 6 requesting a stay of the execution until a settlement can be reached between the baby’s family and a Saudi reconciliation committee.

Nafeek had been working in Saudi Arabia for two weeks in 2005 when the ‘Otaibi family’s four-month-old baby died in her care.

Nafeek retracted a confession that she said was made under duress, and says the baby died in a choking accident while drinking from a bottle. Authorities have incarcerated Nafeek in Dawadmi prison since 2005.

Nafeek had no access to legal counsel until after a court in Dawadmi sentenced her to death by beheading in 2007.

International law prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18.