Sri Lankan maid’s interpreter turns out to be non-Tamil

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Mohammed Rasooldeen I Arab News

Published — Sunday 31 August 2008

Last Update 31 August 2008 3:00 am

DAWADMI: The interpreter who translated the statements of a Tamil-speaking Sri Lankan maid sentenced to death for the alleged murder of a Saudi baby in her care is an ethnically non-Tamil Kannadiga speaker.

The revelations were made during a high court hearing held here yesterday.

Kateb Al-Shammary, the lawyer representing the maid, Rizana Nafeek, asked whether the interpreter, Karim Mawiya Cader Mohammed, was qualified to accurately translate Tamil into Arabic.

He told the court that he wanted to know whether Mohammed — who has been working for an electronics company in Dawadmi for 20 years and is originally from the Indian state of Karnataka — is proficient enough in Tamil to interpret Nafeek’s police and court statements.

The court told the attorney that it would summon two witnesses to the next hearing to vouch for the translator’s honesty, integrity and ability to translate from Tamil.

Mohammed told the court that he translated Nafeek’s statement in May 2005 when she was brought to Dawadmi, from Jezma, some 100 km from Dawadmi.

“I come to courts on request for translation purposes and I am paid SR100 per case,” Karim told Arab News. He added that he knows Tamil which is widely spoken in India’s Tamil Nadu state and Sri Lanka.

In his written submission, Al-Shammary also argued that Nafeek, who was 17 when she came to the Kingdom on a passport that stated she was 23, was never hired to be a nanny and that the death occurred due to her inexperience in dealing with newborn children.

A three-member bench, led by Chief Justice Sheikh Abdullah Al-Rosaimi, decided to hold the next hearing on Nov. 5.

Also attending the hearing was Nafeek, the father of the deceased Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi, Sri Lankan Ambassador Abdul Ageed Mohamed Marleen and a team of officials from the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh.

Yesterday marked the fifth time Nafeek appeared at Dawadmi High Court since the baby’s death in May 2005. The court first sentenced her to death in June 2007; the ruling was then appealed a month later. In December 2007, the Cassation Court sent the case back to Dawadmi. In March this year, the Dawadmi court sent the case to the Supreme Judicial Council, which ordered judges to hear the defense attorney’s objections.

Nafeek came to the Kingdom through an unidentified placement agency, which — in violation of Sri Lankan and international laws on trafficking minors — forged the age on her passport to make it appear she was 23.

Nafeek’s birth certificate states she was born on Feb. 4, 1988, meaning she was 17 when she came to the Kingdom.

The family maintains that Nafeek committed premeditated murder. On the day of the baby’s death, the Sri Lankan housemaid was taken to a police station in Dawadmi where she is alleged to have signed a murder confession.

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