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    » 01/09/2013, 00.00

    SRI LANKA - SAUDI ARABIA

    Sri Lanka's Rizana Nafeek executed

    Melani Manel Perera

    The young Muslim woman was on death row since 2007 for allegedly killing an infant.

    Colombo (AsiaNews) - Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek was executed in Saudi Arabia today (6 am GMT), Sri Lanka's External Affairs Ministry reported. The execution took place in Damami, a town about 400 kilometres west of Riyadh. The young Muslim woman was on death row for allegedly killing an infant.

    Last Saturday, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa appealed to the Saudi king for a delay to allow a Sri Lanka delegation to meet the baby's family to work out a deal.

    Fr George Sigamoney, head of Caritas Sri Lanka, told AsiaNews that he was "deeply upset" over Rizana's execution. Since her arrest, he had fought for her release.

    "Unfortunately, what we expected to happen happened," he said. "As a representative of the Church and of Caritas I want to express my sorrow and solidarity to Rizana's family. I pray for them that they may have the courage needed to face their pain and get through this moment."

    "I want to remember Rizana in another way," Fr George said. "As a nation, we must reflect and weep for the loss of this young life." However, "I believe the time has come for government authorities to deal in a serious manner with the predicament of migrant workers seeking employment in the Middle East."

    When news came of Rizana's execution, the Sri Lankan parliament observed a minute of silence as a show of respect. Her parents, sisters and brothers went to their mosque to pray.

    Rizana's mother, Fareena, asked Sri Lankan authorities to repatriate her daughter's body for burial.

    Her father Sultant is devastated not only because of her death but also because he is the one who sent her overseas, still underage, in order to help the family, neighbours said.

    "There is no doubt that the charge of murder against Rizana is wrong," the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said in a statement issued today. "The laws in Saudi Arabia falls short of universally accepted norms concerning investigation of crimes, most importantly in this case the failure to conduct of an autopsy upon the body of the deceased person, alleged to have been murdered by Rizana. None of the fair trial guarantees were observed when Rizana was tried in the Saudi court."

    "The Government of Sri Lanka or the office of the President did nothing to save Rizana's life, despite calls for assistance from Rizana's family and from the global civil society." In fact, "President Rajapaksha's government refused to pay at least the lawyers' fee for filing the appeal. [. . .] So long as there is a government that does not show any care for the rights of its people, similar tragedies will be repeated in Sri Lanka."

    Born into a very poor family in Mutur village (Trincomalee District in the Eastern Province), Rizana had moved to Saudi Arabia in 2005 when she was only 17, on a false passport, to work as a domestic helper.

    When her employer's child died, she was accused of murder and sentenced to death in 2007 after a phony trial based on a confession written in Arabic she was forced to sign, even though she did not know that language.

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    See also

    10/01/2013 SAUDI ARABIA- SRI LANKA
    Migration flows to Saudi Arabia must be regulated to avoid another Rizana Nafeek
    Source talks to AsiaNews about illegal labour practices involving migrants to Saudi Arabia from Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. "Exporting" countries fail to protect their migrants. In Rizana Nafeek's case, Sri Lankan authorities failed to provide her with a lawyer during her trial.

    05/12/2012 SRI LANKA - SAUDI ARABIA
    Sri Lanka's Church and government hope for Rizana Nafeek's release
    The Saudi crown prince announces a pardon for death row inmates as a blessing for the health of his ailing king. The young Muslim woman was sentenced to death in 2007 for allegedly killing an infant. A Catholic nun expresses joy at the news, but urges the government to protect better migrant workers.

    22/01/2013 SRI LANKA
    Rizana Nafeek’s mother: I do not want money, but protection for all migrants like my daughter
    She has refused any financial help following the execution of the girl, sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia in 2007. Church and civil society in the country are organizing petitions and collecting signatures to demand laws in Sri Lanka to protect migrant workers.

    11/05/2012 SRI LANKA
    Sentenced to death in S Arabia in 2007, Rizana Nafeek's life hangs by a thread
    Falsely charge of murder, the young woman has been in jail since she was 17. The European Union is closely monitoring the case. For Saudi authorities, the "case is not yet closed." Sri Lanka is trying to get the victim's family to pardon her.

    06/06/2012 SRI LANKA
    Social activists to Elizabeth II: For Diamond Jubilee, save Rizana Nafeek’s life
    The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) sends a letter to the Queen of England, who is celebrating 60 year reign. Since 2007, the Sri Lankan girl is sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for the alleged murder of a newborn babay.



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