Lanka president seeks king’s intervention

MD RASOOLDEEN | Arab News Staff

Published — Tuesday 8 January 2013

Last update 8 January 2013 6:41 am

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RIYADH: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made a personal appeal to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah seeking royal intervention to suspend the execution of housemaid Rizana Nafeek until a settlement for clemency is reached with the aggrieved parents of the deceased infant.
The president’s media spokesman Mohan Samaranayake told Arab News from Colombo yesterday that the appeal was handed to Saudi Ambassador in Colombo Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Jammaz on Sunday.
On Jun. 16, 2007, Nafeek was sentenced to death 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.
However, the Supreme Judicial Commission affirmed the judgment in September 2010.
On Oct. 25 of the same year, President Rajapaksa made an appeal to the king to grant clemency to Nafeek on humanitarian grounds.
Subsequently, the Royal Court forwarded the case of Nafeek to be amicably resolved with the Saudi parents of the child she was convicted of killing. Nafeek’s case was adopted by the Reconciliation Committee (RC) of the Riyadh governorate, whose members have been negotiating with the parents of the deceased child.
In his letter, President Rajapaksa, while recalling his previous communication addressed to the king, said that the maid was only 17 years old at the time of the incident. “I understand that the maid is soon to be executed since the aggrieved parents are not in favor of a pardon,” the president said, appealing to the king to use his good offices to defer the execution until an amicable settlement is reached between the aggrieved parents and the reconciliation committee.
The president has further said that Nafeek’s execution could raise an outcry among the members of the local and international communities and aggravate the situation. Therefore, Rajapaksa said that he would like to seek the king’s personal intervention.
The reconciliation committee members 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.
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.
According to top-level sources from the Ministry of External Affairs in Colombo, the Saudi ambassador sent the appeal to the royal court through the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday.
In her statement to the court, Nafeek had claimed that at the time of her arrival in Saudi Arabia, she was only 17 years old and a recruitment agent had falsified her documents, seizing her passport by over-stating her true age by 6 years.
The Colombo High Court sentenced the two agents, who allegedly faked the original travel documents of Nafeek, to two years in jail. The judge also asked the two accused to pay 120,000 rupees each to the parents of Nafeek as a penalty for their offense.
Nafeek arrived in Riyadh on May 4, 2005 to work as a housemaid in the household of her sponsor Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi and was later transferred by her sponsor to work in his family household in Dawadami, about 380 km west of Riyadh.
The incident in which the infant died occurred around 12.30 p.m. on May 22, 2005 while Nafeek was bottle-feeding the infant.

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