A Sri Lankan maid accused of killing a four-month-old baby in her care has been executed in Saudi Arabia after more than seven years on death row.
Rizana Nafeek, who was believed to be 24, was sent to Saudi Arabia on false documents by employment agents to work as a domestic assistant, though she was underage.
She was sentenced to death in 2005, despite having no access to a lawyer, after her employer’s four-month-old daughter was found dead in unexplained circumstances.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s president, has repeatedly raised Nafeek’s case with Riyadh.
However, Saudi authorities have repeatedly shown they are prepared to risk diplomatic rows with Asian countries that rely heavily on remittances from nationals working in Saudi Arabia.
After Nafeek’s execution on Wednesday members of parliament in Sri Lanka observed a minute’s silence in her memory.
Campaign groups condemned the execution. “This girl is a victim of flaws in the Saudi Arabian judicial system. She had no lawyer prior to her sentencing and no access to a competent translator before or during her trial,” said Menakshi Ganguly, the south Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
Nafeez, who spoke no Arabic, was reported to have initially ‘confessed’ to the murder during interrogation, but has since retracted her statement arguing it was made under duress following a physical assault.
She said the baby choked while drinking from a bottle. Only three countries currently execute individuals for crimes committed when minors: Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Iran.
In total 69 executions were carried out in Saudi Arabia last year, the third-highest number of executions worldwide. Scores of foreign nationals remain in jail, sentenced to death. There has been no official statement from Saudi authorities.
69 Number of executions carried out in Saudi Arabia last year