Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Court upholds objection against Rizana's death sentence

Court upholds objection against Rizana's death sentence

The Supreme Judicial Council of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has upheld the objection filed by the attorney of Sri Lankan housemaid, Rizana Nafeek against the death sentence imposed on her and returned the case file to the Dawadmi High Court, the Foreign Ministry in Sri Lanka said in a statement.

Rizana had been arrested on 22nd May 2005 by the Police in Dawadmi, a town located 220 km west of the capital, Riyadh and charged with the murder of the infant son of her employer, left in her care. Rizana, who had recently arrived in the Kingdom and 17 years old at that time, claimed that the child had choked to death during bottle feeding. However, the Dawadmi High Court had sentenced Rizana to death in June 2007, upon conviction for the murder of the infant, based on her initial confession to the Police, which she had subsequently retracted in Court.

The Sri Lanka Embassy in Riyadh arranged the law firm of Kateb Fahad Al – Shammary to represent Rizana, with the financial support of the Hong Kong based Asian Human Rights Commission. The lawyer had filed objections against the verdict of the Dawadmi High Court to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) in Riyadh, the highest judicial body in Saudi Arabia. The SJC has upheld the objection of the lawyer pertaining to the initial translation of Rizana’s statement to the Court, upon which the death sentence had been issued. The SJC has returned the case file to the Dawadmi High Court, which is expected to take up the case for hearing on Saturday, 30th August 2008.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Embassy officials in Riyadh have visited Rizana at the Dawadmi Jail on 17th August and found her to be in sound physical and mental condition. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has directed the Embassy to closely monitor developments of this case and extend all possible support and cooperation to Rizana’s lawyer.