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* Sri Lanka deplores execution of underage housemaid in Saudi Arabia
Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 08:20 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka, shocked by the execution of housemaid Rizana Nafeek this morning by Saudi Arabian authorities despite pleas to stay an execution order, deplored her execution in Dawadmy, Saudi Arabia.

"President Rajapaksa and the Government of Sri Lanka deplore the execution of Miss Rizana Nafeek despite all efforts at the highest level of the government and the outcry of the people locally and internationally over the death sentence of a juvenile housemaid," Sri Lanka's External Affairs Ministry issuing a statement said today.

"President Rajapaksa and the Government of Sri Lanka convey their deepest condolences to the bereaved family and join the people of Sri Lanka who sympathize with the bereaved family on the loss of the life of Rizana," the Ministry said.

Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Dilan Perera, saddened by the housemaid's demise, said in parliament today that all efforts made to get Rizana released had failed.

"It was sad that despite all efforts made to release Rizana, it had failed," he has said.

Minister Perera said the Sri Lankan government will do everything possible to realize Nafeek's dream of uplifting the economic condition of her family.

A special religious programme will be held in Colombo on Saturday (12), the Minister said inviting all to attend the event, irrespective of political differences.

Nafeek was sentenced to death in 2007 by a Dawadmy court for allegedly murdering her Saudi employer's infant son while she was bottle feeding the four month old baby. Nafeek claimed the baby accidentally choked while the parents claimed she committed premeditated murder.

The housemaid, who was 17 at the time of the alleged crime, had gained employment in 2005 through an employment agency in Sri Lanka which falsified her age in documents to appear as she was 23 years old.

The Sri Lankan government had arranged for an appeal against the death sentence with the assistance of the Asian Human Rights Organization based in Hong Kong but the Superior Court of Saudi Arabia reconfirmed the death sentence in 2010.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made personal appeals on two occasions immediately after the confirmation of the death sentence and a few days ago to stop the execution and grant pardon to Nafeek.

The External Affairs Ministry said the government pursued all avenues to have Nafeek released from the death row and sent several Ministerial delegations to the Kingdom.

External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris had in writing requested his Saudi Arabian counterpart not to carry out the Sri Lankan housemaid's death sentence.

The government had also arranged for Nafeek's parents to visit Saudi Arabia twice in 2008 and 2011 to see their daughter and also to perform Umra to pray for her release, the Ministry said.

Human rights organizations worldwide including Amnesty Internationals and Human Rights Watch requested the Saudi authorities to stay the execution order and pardon Nafeek.

Nafeek's death sentence has received worldwide attention and requests to spare her life as international law prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18.



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