Clemency Plea

RIYADH, July 23, 2007 (AFP) – A Sri Lankan minister in Saudi Arabia to plead for the life of a teenage housemaid condemned to death for murdering a four-month-old baby said on Monday he was hopeful of a positive outcome. So far this year there have been 108 executions in Saudi Arabia. Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila arrived in the kingdom on Friday with the parents of Rizana Nafeek. The 19-year-old was convicted of strangling her employer’s baby in 2005.

The minister told AFP he had held a meeting with the leaders of the murdered baby’s tribe to plead for clemency.

“This meeting was very positive. They were very receptive to our plea,” the minister told AFP by telephone.

Nafeek’s parents also met their daughter for the first time in two years at the prison where she is being held.

“The parents were very broken down after the meeting. They are under a tremendous amount of emotional strain,” Bhaila said.

The parents, he added, had travelled to the holy city of Mecca to perform the umra — a minor version of the Hajj pilgrimage which all able Muslims must perform at least once in their life.

“This will hopefully provide some spiritual comfort for them,” the minister said.

Around 5