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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 102

Lawyer representation not required under Shariah law for minor condemned to die, says Saudi daily

By Walter Jayawardhana

Colombo, 19 July, ( Under a Shariah Court constituted under Islamic Quranic canons, attorney representation is not necessary points out Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s English language newspaper, referring to a verdict delivered by three judges of such a court to behead a minor Muslim girl Rizana Nafeek from Sri Lanka accused of murder.Rizana's father, Mohammed Nafeek and mother Razeena.Rizana's father, Mohammed Nafeek and mother Razeena.

“She was found guilty by a panel of three Shariah judges on June 16 without legal representation, which is not required under Shariah law,” said in a news item appeared in the Arab News of 17 July.

Human rights organizations have been critical of not providing legal representations for the girl and delivering a verdict based on a coerced confession under duress obtained by the Saudi Arabian Police and obtaining her signature to a document containing the alleged confession written in Arabic, a language she did not understand.

The did not comment on the other criticism. The newspaper said the Sri Lankan Embassy hired law firm was able to file an appeal against the verdict, allowed under the Saudi Arabian law, one day before the deadline for an appeal and it had been not done, she would have been beheaded imminently. The initial payment for the law firm, Kateb Fahad Al-Shammari, 50,000 Saudi Riyals, was paid by the Asian Human Rights Commission, based in Hong Kong.

“The appeal was won on Sunday(July 15), a day before the deadline to appeal. Had the deadline been broken, Nafeek would have faced the imminent prospect of public beheading,” the Arab News said.

The report further said, “The lawyers are filing the appeal and claiming that the case is accidental death, which would take execution off the table and leave the penalty a matter of paying blood money. The lawyer was permitted by prison authorities on Saturday ( July 14) to visit the Dawadami jailhouse and meet with Nafeek for the purpose of escorting her to a notary public in order to acquire a power of attorney.”

Paying blood money to the family of the deceased is customary under Muslim law in many Middle Eastern countries. In this case neither the accused girl or her parents who are planning to fly to Saudi Arabia at the expense of the Sri Lanka government to plea for condemned girl Friday July 20, certainly cannot afford to pay blood money to anybody.

The girl’s father is a woodcutter and the whole family has claimed to be living in abject poverty in a mud hut without basic amenities like a toilet or a well for drinking water in the war racked and impoverished Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.

The Arab News quoting the Muslim Deputy Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka Hussein Bhaila said, “We respect the laws of the host country and accordingly we have been following the legal procedures to save this girl from the gallows.”

The newspaper added quoting Bhaila, who is planning to fly with the girl’s parents to Saudi Arabia, as saying “ We will also try other avenues to save Rizana’s life by appealing for pardon on humanitarian grounds,” referring to an appeal for clemency by the child’s family.

The newspaper said, “Under Shariah law the family (of the deceased) can forfeit their private right to see justice by the sword, usually in exchange for blood money.”

In an earlier issue of the newspaper, in an item datelined November 15, 2005 the Arab News had this to say on blood money : “Pardoning killers in murder cases has become a multimillion-riyal business. According to Al-Watan, profit is now the motive of forgiveness. It is called blood money, and the families of some victims are cashing in, demanding sums beyond the reach of all but the very rich. Last year alone, more than SR40 million was paid to pardon eight people.” The newspaper also called it legal extortion and is against the tenets of Islam.

In this particular case, after the three Shariah judges convicted the Sri Lankan girl, Naif Jiziyan Khalafal Otaibi, the father of the child and Nafeek’s Saudi sponsor, refused to give up his private right to see Nafeek executed making the girl go to the executioner to be beheaded.

Bhaila is planning to make the parents appeal to him for a reconsideration of his decision. It is up to Naif Jiziyan Khalafal Otaibi whether he would agree and if he agreed whether he would demand blood money are two issues still with big question marks.

Since no interpreter was provided, by the three Shariah judges, during the court case, she was unable to tell them that she was actually 17 years old at the time of the death of the child, and her confession that she killed the infant was obtained under coercion by the Saudi Arabian police who are notorious for such acts.

Joined as a house maid at the residence of her employer, she was also additionally given the duty of baby sitting for a four months old infant without any instructions or training. According to the newspaper reports, she panicked when the baby chocked on milk and accidentally died during bottle feeding after which the parents accused her of murdering the baby. The police forced her to sign the confession admitting strangulation on which the judges delivered the verdict.

- Asian Tribune -

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