COLOMBO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sri Lanka said on Friday it was calling on Saudi Arabia to pardon a domestic worker sentenced to death by stoning after she admitted committing adultery while working in the Arab nation.
An official from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Employment Bureau said the married 45-year-old woman who was working as a maid in Riyadh since 2013 was convicted of adultery by a Saudi court in August.
Her partner, also a Sri Lankan migrant worker, was given a lesser punishment of 100 lashes on account of being single.
“She has accepted the crime four times in the courts. But the Foreign Employment Bureau has hired lawyers and have appealed against the case,” Upul Deshapriya, spokesman for the Foreign Employment Bureau, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The appeal is going on. Also from the foreign ministry side, they are in negotiation with the Saudi government on a diplomatic level.”
Officials from the Saudi Embassy in Colombo did not respond to requests from the Thomson Reuters Foundation on whether they would consider the plea for clemency.
Oil-producing Saudi Arabia follows Sharia, or Islamic law, and is often criticised by human rights groups for the wide range of crimes such as adultery, drug smuggling and witchcraft which carry the death penalty.
Stoning, a form of execution where a group throws stones at a person buried waist or chest deep in the ground until they are dead, is still carried out in parts of the Muslim world.
In 2013, Saudi Arabia beheaded a young Sri Lankan housemaid for the killing of an infant left in her care, rejecting repeated appeals by Colombo against her death sentence.
Thousands of men and women from the Indian Ocean island travel to the Middle East every year to seek jobs as maids or drivers.
According to Central Bank data, 279,952 Sri Lankans went to work in Middle Eastern nations in 2014, generating over $7 billion in remittances, around 9 percent of total GDP.
Saudi Arabia, which is current chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council Panel, has executed over 150 people this year, mostly by public beheading, the most in 20 years, rights group Amnesty International said this month.
Foreigners, mostly guest workers from poor countries, are particularly vulnerable as they typically do not know Arabic and are denied adequate translation in court, Amnesty said.
Riyadh says it provides fair trials to all defendants.
Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal. Editing by Nita Bhalla. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org