Saudi Arabia: Sri Lankan teenager faces possible beheading as execution numbers soar

Amnesty International is warning that a Sri Lankan teenager is at risk of being beheaded in Saudi Arabia, despite having had no access to lawyers during her capital trial.

A Saudi court is reported to be considering Sri Lankan domestic worker Rizana Nafeek's appeal against her existing death sentence. If the sentence is upheld, she could be at imminent risk of execution.

Amnesty International - which has issued an urgent appeal for Rizana ( www.amnesty.org.uk/cases ) - is particularly concerned for her fate, as the already high rate of Saudi executions has increased still further in the first weeks of 2008. At least 26 people, including three Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, have been executed since 8 January, while at least 158 people, including three Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, were executed in the kingdom in 2007.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“It’s shocking that anyone in this day and age could be facing death by beheading but it’s doubly so when it’s a teenager who didn’t even have a lawyer at her patently unfair trial.

“The fact that Rizana was reportedly only 17 at the time of the alleged offence makes the prospect of an execution even more appalling.”

“This execution should be stopped - the Saudi authorities should step in to commute her sentence immediately.”

Rizana Nafeek was sentenced to death on 16 June 2007 after being found guilty of a murder allegedly committed when she was 17 years old. She was originally arrested in May 2005 on charges of murdering an infant in her care. She had no access to lawyers either during interrogation or at her trial, and it’s believed that she confessed to the murder during police questioning, only to later retract her confession.

Rizana has insisted to the Saudi authorities that she was born in February 1988 (making her 17 at the time of the alleged offence), but they seem to have ignored this on the basis that her passport indicated that she was born in 1982. According to information available to Amnesty International, she has not been allowed to present her birth certificate or other evidence of her age.

As a child at the time of the crime, Rizana Nafeek’s execution would be in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which prohibits the execution of offenders for crimes committed when they were under 18 years old.

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