Saudi beheads Syrian, to execute Sri Lankan

Published Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Saudi authorities on Tuesday beheaded a Syrian convicted of trafficking a large amount of narcotic pills, the interior ministry said, in the first execution in the kingdom this year.

Mohammed Darwish was arrested "as he was trafficking a large amount of narcotic pills into the kingdom," the ministry said in a statement carried by official news agency SPA.

He was beheaded in Al-Jawf province, in the kingdom's north.

Meanwhile, there are ongoing appeals advanced by Amnesty International to save Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic worker in Saudi Arabia, from execution for a crime she had allegedly committed at the age of 17, although her forged passport had said that she was 23 at the time.

Domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries often present themselves as older on official documents so that they may begin working before the age of 18.

Nafeek was arrested in May 2005 and sentenced to death for murdering an infant in her care. She did not have a lawyer up until after the conclusion of the first trial.

She appealed the case, saying that although she had initially confessed to the crime, she had been forced to sign the confession ‘under duress,’ after being physically assaulted.

There are also doubts about the translator used during her confession, deemed possibly incapable of translating between Tamil and Arabic. He no longer lives in the kingdom.

The Supreme Court in Riyadh upheld the death sentence on 25 October 2010, and the king ratified the call for execution. The family of the infant victim did not pardon Nafeek, whom they blame for their child’s death.

Amnesty International highlights the disproportionately high figure of death sentences accorded to foreign nationals from developing countries. Last year, the Wahhabi kingdom beheaded 79 people, according to their tallies. Twenty-seven were foreign nationals.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under the kingdom’s version of sharia, or Islamic law.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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