By Ranee Mohamed
Another Friday passed as Sri Lankans, the international community and Rizana’s parents eagerly await the decision of Saudi Arabian authorities regarding the fate of Rizana Nafeek after two appeals for clemency have been sent to the highest authorities in Saudi Arabia.
The greatest hope is pinned on the letter sent by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “We have sent the letter which was signed by our President to the King of Saudi Arabia. A copy was also sent o the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Sri Lanka and we believe that both these letters have now reached Saudi Arabia,” said Director General for Communication, Ministry of External Affairs, Bandula Jayasekera when contacted by The Sunday Leader.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-based Arab News has reported that diplomats and officials had said on Tuesday that, “Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made an appeal to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to spare the life of a housemaid convicted of killing an infant.”
Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek was found guilty of killing a four-month-old baby boy when she was asked to bottlefeed the baby by the wife of the sponsor in 2005 in Dawadmi, a town west of Riyadh. Rizana Nafeek was sentenced to death by a three-member panel of judges headed by Chief Justice of Dawadmi High Court Abdullah Al-Rosaimi on June 16, 2007.
Newspaper reports originating in Saudi Arabia report that the mother of the baby was never seen in court. The father of the child, Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi who comes to court has reportedly remained ‘unapproachable,’ it is stated. It is believed that only the parents – her sponsor – Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi and his wife can grant Nafeek a pardon.
The Supreme Court in Riyadh recently upheld the death sentence issued by the Dawadmi court. The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) appealed the case through the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh, after hiring a Saudi law firm to defend Rizana.Based on the appeal made by lawyer Khateb Al-Shammary, the Supreme Court referred the case again to the Dawadmi court for further clarifications.
Confirming the Supreme Court’s endorsement of the verdict, Al-Shammary in a letter addressed to AHRC said the final ruling has been based on the confessions made by the accused maid. According to the verdict, Rizana Nafeek murdered the infant when she was asked to bottle-feed the baby by the wife of her sponsor. Nafeek, who was 17 at that time, has maintained that the death was an accident. It is also stated that there has been a problem with understanding and translating what Rizana was saying and what was being said to her.
Meanwhile Rizana’s mother Saiyath Ahammed Fareena and father Mohammed Sultan Nafeek in what they call ‘a humble appeal begging for clemency’ addressed to His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Abdul Azeez Al-Saud have pleaded Saudi Royalty to save their daughter. The letter states: “Rizana could not bear to see her little brother and sisters go hungry for some days and also they do not have the essential things school children usually have. Our daughter who was a clever student in school sacrificed her education to leave for Saudi in order to construct a house and educate her brother and sisters.
Rizana is a very kind, loving and soft spoken girl, even in the school she was a good student. When she was first accused of murder we were shocked and shaken. We don’t understand what exactly had happened. Man’s forgetfulness and making mistakes is also the creation of the Almighty Allah.” Rizana Nafeek and her family live in a hut and live amidst great hardship. They have survived by collecting firewood from the jungles of Muttur. Rizana is the oldest of four children. She has one brother and two younger sisters Fathima Rushda and Fathima Ruzna. They are residents of Safi Nagar, Muttur 5.
Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan speaking to The Sunday Leader from Saudi Arabia on Friday said that there were no signs of any punishment being meted out that Friday. “When such punishments are expected to take place, there is cleaning of the areas and water bowsers in the vicinity. But there is no such thing happening today,” he said.