Lanka to bids mercy for Rizana

COLOMBO: A delegation led by Sri Lanka’s Western Province Gov. Alavi Mowlana is to arrive in Riyadh this week to seek clemency for Rizana Nafeek from the parents of the infant who was killed during her care.

On June 16, 2007, Nafeek was sentenced to death by a three-member bench at the Dawadmi High Court for killing the baby she was entrusted to look after in the absence of her Saudi employers at home. The accused maintained that the newborn choked during bottle-feeding, and that she tried to seek help.

According to sources from the External Affairs Ministry in Colombo, the delegation will comprise top officials from the ministry, Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) and Rizana’s parents Mohammed and Rifana Nafeek.

Sources revealed that the delegation would try to meet the parents of the deceased child and the tribal leader to seek a pardon for Nafeek on humanitarian grounds.

Legal experts in the Kingdom say Nafeek can only be saved if pardoned by the victim’s family. The pardon can be offered with or without a request for blood money.

In August this year, the Royal Court forwarded the case for an amicable settlement with the Saudi parents of the child she was convicted of killing.

Arab News learned that the case had been referred from the Royal Court to the Riyadh governorate through the Ministry of Interior during the first week of Ramadan.

During an appeal made on behalf of the accused, the judgment was upheld by the Supreme Court in Riyadh on Sept. 25 last year. Subsequently, the case was forwarded to the Royal Court.

In September last year, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had also requested Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to pardon Nafeek.

Sri Lankan Ambassador Ahmed A. Jawad met with then acting Riyadh Gov. Prince Sattam, who is currently the governor of the province, for an update on the progress of the case. During discussions, the prince confirmed that the case was now being taken up by the Reconciliation Committee (RC) of the governorate, whose members were currently negotiating with the parents of the deceased child.

The RC 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.

There is no set period for the RC to take a decision; negotiations may take weeks or sometimes several months to settle a case, sources said.

Subsequently, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera was on a day’s visit to Riyadh to explore opportunities for a negotiated pardon for Nafeek. The minister was accompanied by Kingsley Ranawake.

Ibrahim Sahib Ansar also came to Riyadh to hold discussions with the visiting minister on matters concerning Nafeek.

Ansar had earlier met with the tribal leader of the victim’s family with former Sri Lankan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hussein Bhaila.

According to Perera, who has been entrusted by Rajapaksa to coordinate the case with the Saudi government, his government is ready to pay the requested blood money to save the girl.

“The government is so concerned, the whole country is focused on this case, and we are all interested in saving this poor maid, who came to the Kingdom in search of greener pastures,” he said. (Arab News)