Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankan authorities, activists and religious leaders have called on Saudi Arabia to suspend the recently imposed death sentence by stoning imposed on a Sri Lankan woman, who emigrated to the Kingdom in 2013 to be employed as a domestic worker. The yet unnamed Sri Lanka mother of two could be executed as early as tomorrow.
The National Sangha Council today handed over a letter to the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Sri Lanka urging that country to review the death sentence.
"We appeal,” the letter said, “to the respective authorities to take all possible measures to revoke the death sentence and ensure the migrant worker's safe return to Sri Lanka. We earnestly call on you to expeditiously bring to bear all possible means to ensure that the migrant worker is granted justice. We further call on you to ensure that Sri Lankan migrant workers are granted all possible support and protection to ensure their human rights."
According to newspaper reports, a court in Riyadh sentenced the woman, reportedly a mother of two, based on her confession. The Sri Lankan male worker involved in the case was also found guilty of fornication (since he is not her husband) and sentenced to 100 lashes.
Little is known of the circumstances of the case. Usually, such cases are difficult to prove, as it must be corroborated by four male witnesses or eight female witnesses. However since she pleaded guilty, the case has been exempted from this standard of proof.
This is not the first time Saudi authorities execute a Sri Lankan woman solely on her confession. Rizana Nazeek was executed in 2013 after five years of legal battles and appeals for clemency from the international community. She had retracted her “confession” saying that she had been forced into it and had not been provided with translation or an interpreter.
Saudi Arabia is amongst the top three countries in the world in terms of death penalty enforcement with most cases involving foreign nationals accused of non-lethal crimes such as adultery, apostasy, witchcraft and magic.
Responding to the case, several Sri Lankan politicians have urged Saudi Arabia to pardon the accused.
The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) and the Ministry of Foreign Employment have also instructed the Sri Lankan Embassy in Saudi Arabia to take all steps to save the convicted woman.
After holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue, Sri Lankan officials, including Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Thalatha Atukorale, issued a statement calling on the Saudi government to show some sympathetic consideration towards the accused.