The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo refuted newspapers reports in Colombo about a meeting between Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, in Kuwait last week on the release of death sentenced housemaid Rizana Nafeek.
The news report stated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa met on Oct. 17 with Prince Salman on the sidelines of the Asia Corporate Dialogue Summit held in Kuwait City. During the meeting, the Saudi government indicated that the attorney general of Sri Lanka should come to Saudi Arabia to discuss the legal issues connected with the release of the condemned Sri Lanka housemaid Rizana Nafeek, who is on death row since July 2007 and in custody since May 2005.
A senior official from the ministry told Arab News from Colombo yesterday that there had been no such meeting between President Rajapaksa and Prince Salman during the summit concluded in Kuwait City last week.
However, he added that the island’s Minister of External Affairs G. Lakshman Peiris met with Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, deputy minister of foreign affairs, on the sidelines of the conference. He said the discussions were centered on bilateral matters only.
Sources from the Saudi foreign ministry said that Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah was the only official representative of the Kingdom at the conference in Kuwait.
Nafeek was sentenced to death on June 16, 2007, by a three-member bench at the Dawadmi High Court for killing the baby she was entrusted to look after in the absence of her Saudi employers at home. The accused maintained that the newborn choked during bottle-feeding, and that she tried to seek help.
In August last year, the Royal Court forwarded the case for an amicable settlement with the Saudi parents of the child she was convicted of killing.
Legal experts in the Kingdom say Nafeek can only be saved if pardoned by the victim’s family. The pardon can be offered with or without a request for blood money.
During an appeal made on behalf of the accused, the judgment was upheld by the Supreme Court in Riyadh on Sept. 25, 2010. Subsequently, the case was forwarded to the Royal Court for necessary action.
In September 2010, Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa also requested Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to pardon Nafeek.
During an earlier meeting between Sri Lankan Ambassador Ahmed A. Jawad and then Deputy Gov. Prince Sattam, the prince confirmed that the case was being taken up by the reconciliation committee of the governorate, whose members were currently negotiating with the parents of the deceased child.
The members of the reconciliation committee usually approach the plaintiff to negotiate a pardon for the accused. Such negotiations are either settled with the payment of blood money or a graceful pardon from the aggrieved parties.
There is no set period for the committee to take a decision; negotiations may take weeks or sometimes several months to settle a case, sources said.