SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Rizana Nafeek stated to court that her confession had been taken under duress
According to a report appearing in the Arab News today Rizana Nafeek, who appealed against judgment of a Saudi court that condemned her to death by beheading, gave a statement to the court hearing the appeal that her confession had been taken after torture by the police. We reproduce the full article below:
Monday 19 October 2009 (01 Dhul Qa`dah 1430)
I confessed under duress: Lankan maid
Mohammad Rasooldeen I Arab News --
RIYADH: Rizana Nafeek, the Sri Lankan maid, who has been in jail for the past four years for allegedly killing a Saudi infant in 2005, told a court on Sunday that her first confession was made under duress and as a result of a physical assault.
Nafeek made this statement before a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Abdullah Al-Rosaimi at a court in Dawadmi. Her statement in court was translated by Abdul Kareem, an Indian electrician who acted as her interpreter on Sunday.
Nafeek told the court that she was assaulted and was forced to confess since she feared for her life. Khateb Al-Shammary, Nafeeks lawyer, said that the bench would forward the results of its deliberations to the high court in Riyadh which would in turn decide the next course of action.
For Sundays hearing, the police investigating officer, the local religious police and Nafeek were summoned for questioning. The father of the deceased infant, Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi, who has regularly appeared, was not summoned to court on Sunday. Having recorded Nafeeks statement, the judge also took a statement from police investigating officer who was present in court.
On recording the statement from the police officer, the judge ordered the police to produce two witnesses to vouch at the next hearing for the honesty and integrity of the officer.
Sarath Kumara, first secretary of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh, and Abdul Lateef Mohammed Jabir, missions coordinator were present at the court to look after the interests of the accused.
Nafeek Rizana of Muttur, was been sentenced to death by the Dawadami High Courts in Saudi Arabia on 30 May 2007. She was charged with strangling the 4-month-old child of the family for whom she worked as a housemaid. However, the 17-year-old Rizana who had been recruited as a cleaner stated that she had been asked to bottle feed the infant for which job she had no training or experience at all. She stated that the infant choked while Rizana was bottle feeding it and Rizana could not find anyone to help. The infant fell unconscious and subsequently died. At the time of the incident Rizana had only been working for two weeks in this household and the death was entirely accidental. She was taken to a police station where a statement was taken from her by force. At the police station as well as the subsequent trial she did not have the assistance of a lawyer or a translator.
Rizanas came to be known only after the pronouncement of the death sentence and there was a public outcry in Sri Lanka and internationally and there were large scale intervention on her behalf from around the country. Through the intervention of the AHRC she was provided with the legal assistance from a well known legal firm in Saudi Arabia, Kateb Fahad Al-Shammari, Attorneys at Law, who filed an appeal on her behalf. Subsequent to the appeal Saudi Arabias Supreme Council sent the case back to the original court for reconsideration of the verdict.
Through several hearings it has transpired that the translator named Saibo, who worked with the police was, in fact, a shepherd and had no professional training. He has refused to appear in court and last reports said that he had left the country. There is therefore, no way to verify his qualifications, if any. Under these circumstances two witnesses were called to testify as to his integrity and qualifications, which is permitted under Saudi law. However, these witnesses also failed to appear.
The Asian Human Rights Commission notes that there still remains a threat of the death sentence being re-imposed as the Saudi court may believe the statement of the police officer after two fellow officers give evidence on the integrity of the police investigator. Naturally, within the policing system it will not be difficult to obtain such testimony.
For previous information on Rizanas case please see: