The newly obtained signed statement of Rizana Nafeek of Muthur, Sri Lanka, the housemaid who is now languishing in the Death Row in Saudi Arabia has shed new light in her case and how her case was badly handled by the Sri Lankan Embassy Officials in Saudi Arabia, as well as by the lawyer who has been retained on her behalf.
According to the available information, Rizana Nafeek , retracted her confession at the court hearing, on 3rd February 2007, and informed the court that her original confession admitting to the killing of the child had been obtained by the Police under duress.
Asian Tribune is now in possession of the new statement prepared in the Tamil language by the Sri Lanka Embassy in Saudi Arabia and subsequently it was taken to Dawadami Prison where she was locked up and obtained her signature and her thump impression on the document.
The same statement in Tamil which was approved and signed by Rizana Nafeek is given below and also the English translation of the same. The English translation was made by the staff of the Asian Tribune.
The Arabic translation of the document was done by a Third Secretary of the Sri Lanka Embassy.
When one goes through the statement signed by Rizana Nafeek dated 2007. 01.30, at Al Dhawadhimi Prisons, there was so many important points in favour of Rizana and saving her from executioner’s blade, but unfortunately those points were not taken into serious consideration....
The Dawadami Police who arrested Rizana Nafeek has threatened and intimidated her and obtained a statement accepting that she killed the child.
But the police have failed to take the dead infant for a postmortem to find out the cause of the death of the infant - a serious lapse on the part of the Dawdami Police.
The High Court of Dhawdami it is learnt has decided on a murder case without a post mortem report to determined the cause of death and has simply gone on the police evidence and on the earlier statement of the accuse - Rizana Nafeek and passed a judgement of death on 16 June 2007.
Furthermore, it is not known whether Saudi law firm Khateb Al-Shammary who represented Rizana in the Supreme Court took up the issue of the “postmortem”....
Rizana's statement (English translation):
Al Dhawadhimi Prisons,
I, Rizana Nafeeq, - who is presently confined in Al Dhawadhimi Prisons on the allegation of homicide - state as follows:
I have already made a first statement to the officials of High Commission of Sri Lanka on the above mentioned allegation.
I am making this statement instead of the statement given to the officials of High Commission of Sri Lanka on this allegation. I am making this statement as I am in good mental condition.
My address in Sri Lanka is – M.S.Nafeeq, Shafi Nagar, Muttur.
My actual age is 19 years old.
My date of birth is 02.02.1988.
The sub agent called Bajurdeen deceitfully changed my date of birth as 02.02.1982 and issued me a passport whereas my actual date of birth is 02.02.1988.
I arrived at Saudi Arabia on 2005.04.01 as my first visit. I was employed at the residence of my Saudi Madam for a period of 1 ½ months. There was no problem to narrate of. I was assigned to do cooking, washing and looking after a four months infant.
As soon as I was brought to this house, I was employed to look after this infant. I had been amenable and maintained good rapport with the house people.
The inadvertent incident, I could not recollect the date of the incident, happened at about 12.30 p.m on one Sunday. The house people whosoever was not at home at that time. In addition to the four months old infant, there were male and female children as well. Usually, I am the one who used to feed milk to that four month-old infant. The day of the incident too, I fed the infant with milk.
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 it was snoozing..
The madam came home at about 1.30 p.m. and after having seen the infant, she assaulted me with slippers and hands and took the infant away. Blood oozed from my nose. Thereafter police came and took me into their custody. I was assaulted at the police station too. They assaulted me with belt and coerced me for a statement stating that I had strangled the infant. They intimidated me that I would have been killed in the event I was adamant not to give a statement to the effect that I strangled the infant and electrocuted, I would be killed.
In these circumstances, I under duress placed my signature on the written paper they gave to me. They took me to another place and asked a question, As I was virtually in a state with loss of memory and in fear and frightened mood, I had happened to tell them that I strangled the infant. In the name of Allah, I swear and aver that I never strangled the infant.
I hereby place my signature after having read this statement
This affidavit gives, for the first time, her version of events relating to the death of a four-month-old infant who she was bottle feeding. She was later charged with murdering the infant and was sentenced to death by beheading on June 16, 2007 after already having spent over two years in jail as the date of the incident was May 25, 2005. An appeal was filed on July 16, 2007.
All previous information on this incident was based on communications with the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh. Several days after the death sentence was pronounced the BBC Sinhala Service aired the story of a Sri Lankan domestic worker being sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia and that the last date for an appeal to be launched was July 16. The Asian Human Rights Commission thereafter contacted the Embassy in Riyadh and learned that due to a prevailing government rule, not to provide financial assistance to Sri Lankan workers facing convictions before foreign courts, the embassy was unable to assist Rizana Nafeek in the filing of an appeal. The Embassy however, informed the AHRC that they had contacted a firm of attorneys, Kateb Fahad Al-Shammari but that the Embassy was unable to pay the fees demanded by the firm for filing the appeal. The AHRC thereafter wrote to Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requesting him to support this appeal financially irrespective of the prevailing rule. This letter is also reproduced below.
Having received no reply the AHRC came to an agreement with the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Riyadh that the AHRC would help to raise the necessary funds and the Embassy would continue to work with the firm of Kateb Fahad Al-Shammari to file the appeal. Accordingly the fees were transferred and the appeal was filed on the last day available for the appeal, July 16, 2007.
The affidavit that was published today by the Asian Tribune would have been known to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh but it was never revealed to the public.
The Asian Human Rights Commission in its many appeals on the case has consistently maintained that no forensic enquiry was ever conducted into the death of the infant and there was no evidence at all to indicate any circumstances which would suggest any wrong doing on the part of Rizana Nafeek or to justify the charge of murder.
The affidavit published today reveals that the possible cause of death could have been some illness suffered by the infant. According to the affidavit the infant Rizana noticed "milk was oozing through the mouth and nose of the infant." The Asian Tribune has consulted a medical expert who states that:
"There could have been a 'Stop' anywhere between the oral cavity and Esophagus, (Latin – œsophagus).( Swedish -Oesophagoes). When there is a 'Stop', the milk will not go into the stomach, but will ooze out. This might also be a symptom, that it may be either due congenital or existence of a tumor. Therefore it can be also assumed that when the milk the house maid bottle-fed oozed out, the child might have already passed away."
All the circumstances reveal scandalous behaviour on the part of all those who were involved on behalf of the Sri Lankan government in dealing with this case. As this affidavit was written on January 30, 2007 Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona himself should have been aware of this affidavit and Rizana Nafeek's, version about the circumstances of the death. It must also be remembered that she was then a 17-year-old girl. The Sri Lankan government should immediately initiate a thorough and credible inquiry into the handling of this case by its Embassy prior to the filing of the appeal as well as throughout the appeal itself. It was the Embassy staff in Riyadh who liaised with law firm throughout the process of the appeal. According to the law firm they were liaising with the Embassy even after the death sentence was reconfirmed last year.
We urge the Sri Lankan government to raise, with the Saudi Arabian government, its concern over the blatant injustice that is involved in charging this young girl with murder in this case, on sentencing her to death, on refusing her appeal and further, for keeping her imprisoned for over six years now. According to the information recently issued by the Asian Tribune she is now suffering serious psychological problems due to the incomprehensible nature of the communications that she has received on her death sentence and also due to her prolonged detention.
We once again urge the world community, which has in the past shown an extraordinary concern to save Rizana's life, to persist in their interventions with the Saudi Arabian government for her release.
Sri Lankan Government 'ready to pay any amount' to rescue Rizana
'The Sri Lankan government is ready to pay any amount of money as blood money to rescue Rizana Nafeek who has been sentenced to death by a Saudi court, said Foreign Employment and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera.
He was addressing a press conference at the Central Bank yesterday.
The minister said that the Saudi Arabian government has decided to suspend her punishment temporarily.
This was on the request of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
However the king of Saudi Arabia is unable to decide the judgment according to the country’s Sharia law. Minister Perera said up to now one parent has agreed to release Rizana.
However according to Sharia law both parents should give their approval to take action regarding her release.
Mother's Pardon pending
Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB) Additional General Manger L K Ruhunage yesterday said the Bureau has not given up its diplomatic effort to save Rizana Nafeek, the 20-year-old Sri Lankan housemaid facing execution in Saudi Arabia.
Rizana can only be released if she was granted a pardon by the child’s parents, said SLFEB sources.
The father of the child has reportedly expressed his willingness to pardon Rizana. The mother’s decision is still pending, they said.
Rizana was sentenced to death by Saudi Arabian High Courts for allegedly killing her employer’s four month old son. She claimed that the child had died due to accidental choking.
Following Rizana’s sentence, the Bureau appealed to the parents of the child to grant a pardon to the housemaid who was 16 years old when she committed her alleged crime in February 2005, said Ruhunage.
Meanwhile, the execution of Rizana’s sentence to be carried out last year was suspended by the King of Saudi Arabia following an appeal by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Rizana’s family in Muttur are hopeful that their daughter will be pardoned and returned to the country. “We are fasting and praying for her return,” Rizana’s mother Razeena told the media. She is the eldest of a family of four.
Meanwhile, sources at the Bureau said they sent a team to meet Rizana’s employer and his wife in Riyadh to seek a pardon for Rizana.
The employer, the father of the child has reportedly agreed to pardon Rizana
The mother’s decision is still pending, the sources said.
Ruhunage said, the Bureau is prepared to offer compensation to the child’s family for her release.