Saudi Arabia: Rizana Case Moves to Supreme Judicial Council

Arab News
The Cassation Court in Riyadh has sent the case of a Sri Lankan maid, who was sentenced to death last year for allegedly murdering a four-month-old baby in her care, to the Supreme Judicial Council, the Kingdom’s final appeals court.
"Our lawyers have filed further submissions to the Supreme Judicial Council,” said Basil Fernando, executive director of the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
Fernando added that the organization is optimistic in reversing the judgment. “Even after the ratification by the council, we can make a final appeal to the victim’s parents and finally to the king,” he said.

Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek was sentenced to death on June 16 last year for killing the baby in the city of Dawadmi, 270 km from the capital. The verdict was given by a three member-bench headed by Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Rosaimi, chief judge of the High Court in Dawadmi.

Khateb Al-Shammary, a Riyadh-based law firm, filed an appeal on July 15 following a request from the AHRC. On Dec. 6, the Cassation Court in Riyadh returned the case to the Dawadmi High Court, seeking further clarifications on the maid’s confession to police.

The AHRC has already paid SR100,000 out of a total legal fee of SR150,000 that the Riyadh-based law firm is demanding. Fernando added that the remaining SR50,000 will be paid to the lawyers only if the verdict is in Nafeek’s favor.

Fernando said a Paris-based international human rights organization, which is concerned over the latest development, is to appeal to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for a royal pardon. “We would like to make a humanitarian appeal to the bereaved family to pardon this maid, who was a victim of circumstances,” Fernando said.

The father of the dead baby, Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi, 32, works for the Finance Ministry in Riyadh. Nafeek allegedly confessed to her crime shortly after her arrest, but has since retracted the confession, saying it had been given under duress and that there had been a misunderstanding caused by the language barrier.

At the time of her arrival, Nafeek was only 17 years old. A recruitment agent in Sri Lanka had falsified her documents by overstating her actual age by six years.

In its submissions during the appeal, Khateb Al-Shammary cited several reasons why the maid should not be punished for her alleged actions. It claimed that the maid was underage at the time of the incident and pointed out that Nafeek was brought into the Kingdom as a housemaid, not as a nanny. Furthermore, the petition said that there was no reason for Nafeek to harbor any vengeance against the parents of the child since she had been working for the household for only seven days.

By: Mohammed Rasooldeen

9 March 2008