07/09/2011, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Sinhalese and Tamil Muslims together for Rizana Nafeek

by Melani Manel Perera
The muslim maid was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for allegedly killing an infant in 2005. Q protest rally is held outside the Saudi Embassy. Activists say that the child’s death was an accident and blame both countries for the situation.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – More than 500 Sinhalese and Tamil Muslims demonstrated outside the saudi Embassy in Colombo demanding the immediate release of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan maid sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for allegedly killing an infant.

The Muslim Rights Organization (MRO) and other civil society organisations staged the demonstration in Colombo’s famous Lipton Circus.

Concern over Rizana’s fate rose after an Indonesian woman was executed in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of murder (see Mathias Hariyadi, “Indonesian woman beheaded in Saudi Arabia, Jakarta threatens to stop flow of migrants,” in AsiaNews, 21 June 2011)

For MRO President Per Mujiboo Rahumaan, the Saudi government cannot execute Rizana for an accident. “She was hired as a maid. If the parents needed someone to look after their baby, they should have hired a qualified babysitter.”

Rizana was not an adult when the incident occurred.

“I am not afraid to say that the governments of both countries are responsible for this,” said Catholic human rights activist Nimalka Fernando. “As a mother, I feel close to her family and their pain.”

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Employment Minister Dilan Perera said that the Sri Lankan government is prepared to pay compensation in exchange for the young woman’s release.

“One parent of the dead child has pardoned the maid, but that is not enough,” the minister said. “This incident needs to be handled with caution and should not be exploited for political gain.”

Rizana Nafeek has been in a saudi jail since 2005. The young Muslim woman comes from a very poor family in the village of Mutur (eastern district of Trincomalee).

She arrived in Saudi Arabia at the age of 17 using a fake passport to work as a maid.

If her sentence is upheld by the king, she could be executed at any time.
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