UK & World News
Saudi Arabia Beheads Young Sri Lankan Maid
A young Sri Lankan housemaid has been beheaded in Saudi Arabia for killing a baby who was in her care.
Rizana Nafeek had denied strangling the four-month-old baby in 2005 and the execution came despite global appeals to call it off because she was only 17 at the time.
Rights groups said the death sentence was a violation of international codes governing the rights of minors.
Appeals by the Sri Lankan government were also rejected and Nafeek was executed in the town of Dawadmy, near the capital Riyadh, on Wednesday morning.
In a statement the Saudi interior ministry said she had been found guilty of smothering the infant to death after an argument with the child's mother, her employer.
Sri Lanka's President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had made a series of personal appeals to try to stop the execution and grant a pardon to the maid.
Afterwards, the president said he and his government "deplored" the beheading.
Saudi households are highly dependent on housemaids from African and South Asian countries.
There have been reported cases of domestic abuse in which families mistreat their maids, who have then attacked the children of their employers.
Condemning the execution, Human Rights Watch senior women's rights researcher Nisha Varia said: "Saudi Arabia is one of just three countries that executes people for crimes they committed as children.
"In executing Rizana Nafeek, Saudi authorities demonstrated callous disregard for basic humanity as well as Saudi Arabia's international legal obligations."
Saudi is an absolute monarchy that follows the strict Wahhabi school of Islam and applies Sharia (Islamic) law. Judges base decisions on their own interpretation of Sharia rather than on a written legal code or on precedent.
In a statement Amnesty International said that it appeared Nafeek had had no access to lawyers either during her pre-trial interrogation or at her trial in 2007.
Hers was the second execution in Saudi Arabia this year after a Syrian man was beheaded on Tuesday for drug trafficking.