Lanka to approach baby’s parents for maid’s pardon

A Cabinet Minister said he would visit Riyadh shortly to seek a pardon from the parents of the four-month old infant that Rizana Nafeek was found guilty of murdering by a Saudi court.
Rizana has been sentenced to death.

“I am planning to come to the Kingdom to personally make an appeal to the father of the deceased infant, Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi, to pardon the convicted maid on humanitarian grounds,” Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen told Arab News recently.
The Minister said the Sri Lankan Government respects the judicial decision and it is also in sympathy with the bereaved family. However, he added that the government thought it would be appropriate at this juncture to make a final appeal to the aggrieved parents whose decision could change the fate of the Lankan maid who had come to the Kingdom in 2005 as a minor with a fake birth date on her passport saying she was of legal age to work in Saudi Arabia.

Hired as a maid, Rizana was given nanny duties and claims the newborn she was given to take care of choked to death during bottle-feeding during her second week on the job. The parent alleged she murdered the child and a local court found her guilty. The Supreme Court later upheld this verdict.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa made an appeal to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah requesting clemency for Nafeek.
“Rizana’s case has generated a lot of sympathy from Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka. They are conducting special prayers to invoke the blessings of God to rescue the maid from the executioner,” the Minister said, adding that his Ministry officials are in touch with Nafeek’s parents in her hometown of Muttur to console them in their distress.
Bathiudeen is positive that the Saudi parents would consider a pardon in favour of Rizana. “It is divine to pardon,” he said.

The Supreme Court in Riyadh upheld the death sentence given by a three-judge panel at the Dawadami High Court on June 16, 2007. According to the verdict, Rizana murdered the infant when she was asked to bottle-feed the baby by the sponsor’s wife.
“We have no serious labour problems among (Lankan workers in Saudi Arabia),” Bathiudeen noted, saying that a few sporadic problems are only from a fraction of the whole Lankan population in the Kingdom.
Basil Fernando, Director of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which has been active in this case, said his organisation had sent an appeal to all foreign missions based in the Kingdom to exercise their influence to negotiate a pardon from the parents.
“We are trying all avenues to save the life of this girl,” he said. “I am sure the parents will show mercy on this girl, who was only 17 when the incident took place.”
It is illegal for a foreign resident under the age of 18 to work in the Kingdom. It is believed that a facilitator in Sri Lanka forged Nafeek’s age in order to send her to the Kingdom as a housemaid who was then given nanny duties by her employers. Nafeek’s passport stated her date of birth as February 2, 1982. The certified copy of her birth certificate indicates her actual date of birth as February 4, 1988.
Respecting the Supreme Court’s final verdict, Fernando said he had sought the United Nations intervention with the Saudi Government to resolve the case. He said UN officials would take up this matter with the Saudi Government’s Human Rights Commission to persuade the parents to consent for a pardon on humanitarian grounds.