Trying Hard

RIYADH, July 24, 2007 (AFP) – A Sri Lankan minister said on Tuesday he was seeking Riyadh’s help in obtaining clemency for a teenage maid condemned to death but he did not expect an immediate outcome to efforts to save her life. “We got a very good and patient hearing” from Saudi foreign ministry officials during the meeting in Riyadh, Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila told AFP by telephone.

Bhaila said he handed the officials a letter from the Sri Lankan foreign minister to his Saudi counterpart, and another from himself to the governor of Riyadh, asking for their intervention to secure a pardon from the family of the baby the maid was convicted of killing.

Bhaila arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday with the parents of 19-year-old Rizana Nafeek, who was convicted of strangling her employer’s baby in 2005.

The parents have already met their daughter, and another visit to the prison where she is held is slated for Wednesday, he said.

Bhaila said that leaders of the murdered baby’s tribe with whom he met earlier had promised to approach the baby’s parents to try to secure a pardon.

Under the strict version of Islamic sharia law applied in Saudi Arabia, a death sentence for premeditated murder can be qua