Sunday, October 31, 2010

ASIA: SRI LANKA: CHURCH HOPES FOR PARDON OF HOUSEMAID

UCAN REPORT:
Sri Lankan Church workers, along with human rights activists and the state president, appeal to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to commute the death sentence imposed upon housemaid Rizana Nafeek.
“Only His Royal Highness the King has the power to pardon her,” said Father George Sigamoney, Caritas Sri Lanka national director, who has campaigned justice for Nafeek’s case since 2007.
The appeals come after the Saudi Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Nafeek’s parents against the death sentence imposed by a high court.
Rizana Nafeek was sentenced to death last week after being declared guilty of killing a four-month-old baby of her Saudi employer in 2005.
According to reports, 17-year–old Nafeek went to Saudi Arabia with a fake ID that put her age at 23 and was employed as a housemaid in 2005.
Nafeek claimed the baby left under her care choked to death after she fed him, but her employers accused her of strangling the child.
In his letter thanking Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for appealing to the King of Saudi regarding Nafeek’s case, Father Sigamoney also addressed the plight of Sri Lankan housemaids and urged to review labor rules to avoid tragedies such as Nafeek’s.
“There should have some restrictions on foreign employment agencies who handle inexperienced housemaids who are not aware of the Middle East countries’ language, culture and laws,” the priest added.
Sri Lanka receives over three billion US dollars every year from nearly 1.5 million Sri Lankan expatriate workers in the Middle East, a vast majority working as housemaids.

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