Saudi Arabia defied international protests yesterday by beheading a Sri Lankan maid convicted of smothering an infant child, despite her being aged just 17 at the time of the offence.
A sword-wielding executioner carried out the death sentence on Rizana Nafeek in the town of Dawadmy, near Riyadh, just hours after the Saudi interior ministry ratified the court verdict against her.
Nafeek was given the death sentence in 2007 for smothering the four-month-old boy while working as his nanny. She had been accused of killing the baby two years earlier following an argument with his mother. Nafeek insisted that the child had choked to death on milk during a bottle feed.
The Sri Lankan government appealed against the death penalty but the Saudi Supreme Court upheld it in 2010. Despite an international campaign for clemency, that verdict was ratified by the interior ministry yesterday.
The announcement that the execution had taken place shocked Nafeek's supporters who had expected Sri Lanka to enter into negotiations to pay blood money for clemency. A global campaign to save Nafeek had been led by a British charity, Safer World for Women, founded by Chris Crowstaff, an English activist. Nafeek's supporters claimed that her execution would be a breach of child rights.
" Saudi Arabia knew Rizana Nafeek was a child (but) they beheaded her anyway," said Joanne Michele, a researcher with the group. "Rizana Nafeek had no access to lawyers either during her pre-trial interrogation or during her first trial."(© Daily Telegraph, London)