Saudis defend woman's beheading

Jan. 14, 2013 at 7:18 AM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Saudi officials defended the beheading of a Sri Lankan woman for the death of a baby in her care, denouncing international criticism the country received.

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia categorically rejects any interference in its affairs or in the provisions of its judiciary under any justifications," a statement broadcast Sunday by the government-backed Saudi Press Agency said.

Human rights groups and the Sri Lankan government lobbied for leniency for Rizana Nafeek, who was beheaded by sword Wednesday on the conviction of killing her employers' son in 2005. The family said she strangled the boy; Nafeek said the infant accidentally choked on milk.

Human rights groups, the European Union and the United Nations condemned the execution. But in Sunday's statement, Saudi Arabia said the condemnations were based on false information, CNN reported.

The Saudi statement denied allegations by Nafeek's supporters that she was 17 years old, a minor, when the boy died. The Sri Lankan government said she was 17 but the Saudi statement said her official passport indicated she was 21.

"As it is universally recognized, the passport is an official document issued by her government," the statement said. "Moreover, the legal regulations of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia do not allow the recruitment of minors."

Saudi Arabia signed the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bars execution of offenders who weren't under 18 at the time of their crime.

The Saudis said Nafeek had "all rights to have a legal defense" because the Sri Lankan government monitored the case, the statement said. The statement also said Saudi officials urged the infant's family members to agree to clemency or a "blood money" payment instead, but they refused.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa twice asked Saudi King Abdullah to intervene.

In response to the execution, Sri Lanka called back its ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

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