SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Rizana Nafeek -- chronology of events leading to -- imminent execution? or uncertain release?
Sri Lankan teenager Rizana Nafeek arrived in Saudi Arabia to work as a house maid when she was 17 years of age. 'Our family was having hardships and so our eldest daughter volunteered to go and work abroad to send money home,' the father Mohammed Sultan Nafeek, a wood cutter from Muthur, Trincomalee, said in an interview with 'Asian Tribune'.
Rizana Nafeek, holder of Sri Lanka Passport No. N. 0331835 arrived in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 01 April 2005, to work as a housemaid in the household, of her sponsor, Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi, whose wife had a new-born baby boy.
A few days after her arrival in Riyadh, roughly by 15th May 2005, Rizana Nafeek had been transferred by her sponsor to work in his family household in Dawadami, about 390 km west of Riyadh.
While she was bottle-feeding the infant around 12.30 p.m. (on 25th May, 2005), the baby-boy started choking, but according to Rizana Nafeek statement: "When I was feeding the infant, I noticed that the milk was oozing through the mouth and nose of the infant. I stroke the throat of the infant gently. As the infant was seen having its eyelids closed, I thought that he was snoozing.
According to her version, when she was bottle feeding, "I noticed that the milk was oozing through the mouth and nose of the infant," - it clearly reveals that the question of choking while feeding does not arise.
Anyhow, the 4 month old baby of Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi died. Cause of death was not known as the Saudi Police failed to conduct the postmortem on the deceased infant baby.
Rizana Nafeek had been arrested by the Dawadami Police on the same day (25 May 2005), and it was reported that she had allegedly confessed to killing the child.
Rizana had repeated her confession in the open court. However, at the court hearing on 3rd February, 2007, Rizana retracted her confession and informed the court that her original confession admitting to the killing the child had been obtained by the Police under duress.
In her statement to the court, Rizana Nafeek had claimed that at the time of her arrival in Saudi Arabia, she was only 17 years old and a recruitment agent had falsified her documents, seizing her passport by over-stating her true age by 6 years.
Initially a three-member panel of judges from the Dawadami High Court headed by Chief Justice Abdullah Al-Rosaimi found Rizana Nafeek guilty of murdering the four-month-old son of Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi and sentenced her to death on June 16, 2007.
The court informed Rizana Nafeek that she could file an appeal against her death sentence, which she did.
An appeal against the beheading of the accused was filed on behalf of Rizana by Khateb Al-Shammary, a Riyadh-based law firm, on July 15, 2007.
In its submissions during the appeal, Khateb Al-Shammary cited several reasons why the maid should not be punished for her alleged actions. Lawyer Khateb Al-Shammary claimed that the maid was underage at the time of the incident and pointed out that Rizana was brought into the Kingdom as a housemaid, not as a nanny. Furthermore, the petition said that there was no reason for Rizana to harbor any vengeance against the parents of the child since she had been working for the household for only for a few days.
Sri Lankan side tried a few times to meet Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi the father of the four month old baby alleged to have died due to milk choking, but he refused to meet any Sri Lankan personalities even up to now .
The Dawdami High Court sentence was subsequently upheld by the Court of Cassation and sent for ratification by the Supreme Judicial Council. However, the Council sent it back to the lower court for further clarification. The case then went back and forth between the courts until on or around 25 September 2010, when the Supreme Court in Riyadh upheld the death sentence.
Unfortunately, the lawyer who appeared for Rizana Nafeek came to know of the confirmation of the death sentence only on 19 October 2010 and he informed this to the Sri Lankan Embassy on the following day.
On 25th October 2010, Sri Lanka's Ministry of External Affairs handed over the original letter by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the Saudi Ambassador in Sri Lanka seeking clemency to Rizana Nafeek .
Subsequently, the Royal Court forwarded the case of Rizana Nafeek to be amicably resolved with the Saudi parents of the child she was convicted of killing. Rizana Nafeek's case was adopted by the Reconciliation Committee (RC) of the Riyadh Governorate, whose members have been negotiating with the parents of the deceased child.
So far- for a long time, Sri Lanka Government has not heard any official response from the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the clemency appeal by Sri Lanka President, but it was unofficially told that the execution has been suspended, but so far the suspension was never confirmed.
The Colombo High Court on 16 January 2012 sentenced the two foreign employment sub agents who are alleged to have sent Rizana Nafeek to Saudi Arabia for employment and they were sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment and ordered to pay Rs.60,000 each as compensation to her parents.
Recently, a few days after the dawn of the New Year 2013, the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia informed Riyadh Governorate about the death sentence on Rizana Nafeek and thus her execution became imminent.
Immediately on 5th January 2013, President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent the second appeal to the King of Saudi Arabia seeking the release the Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek who faces death sentence in Saudi jail on charges of murdering an infant boy while bottle-feeding, states a release from the Department of Information of the Ministry of Mass Media and Information.
In his letter, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, while recalling his previous communication addressed to the King, said that the maid was only 17 years old at the time of the incident. "I understand that the maid is soon to be executed since the aggrieved parents are not in favor of a pardon," the President said, appealing to the King to use his good offices to defer the execution until an amicable settlement is reached between the aggrieved parents and the reconciliation committee.
The President has further said that Rizana Nafeek's execution could raise an outcry among the members of the local and international communities and aggravate the situation. Therefore, Mahinda Rajapaksa said that he would like to seek the king's personal intervention.
The reconciliation committee members usually approach the plaintiff to negotiate a pardon for the accused. Such negotiations are either settled with the payment of blood money or a graceful pardon from the aggrieved parties.
What Next awaits? ?