Saudis reduce maid's death sentence to jail term for adultery: Sri Lankan ministry

Reuters , Wednesday 23 Dec 2015

Sri Lankan acting Foreign Minister Harsha De Silva
File photo of Sri Lankan acting Foreign Minister Harsha De Silva. (Photo Courtesy of Lanka Business Online)

Saudi authorities have reduced a Sri Lankan maid's sentence for adultery from death by stoning to a three-year jail term after an appeal, Colombo's foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The maid, 45, who is married and had worked as a domestic helper in Riyadh since 2013, was convicted in August of adultery with a fellow Sri Lankan migrant worker. The man was given a lesser punishment of 100 lashes because he was not married.

Sri Lankan acting Foreign Minister Harsha De Silva said the appeal against the death sentence was taken up by the Saudi court on Tuesday and he welcomed the outcome.

"The government of Sri Lanka is very happy to announce that the appeal for clemency on the sentence was successful and the Sri Lankan national will have to serve a reduced term in prison," De Silva told reporters in Colombo.

Foreign Employment Minister Thalatha Atukorale said the maid's sentence had been reduced to three years.

There was no immediate comment from the Saudi side.

The maid's name has not been disclosed by Saudi or Sri Lankan authorities.

The death penalty imposed on her sparked an uproar in Sri Lanka, from which hundreds of thousands of men and women migrate to wealthy Gulf Arab states every year to take up jobs as maids or drivers. Their remittances are an important contributor to the South Asian nation's GDP.

Oil-exporting Saudi Arabia follows sharia, Islamic law, and has drawn criticism from Western human rights groups for the wide range of crimes that carry the death penalty there, including adultery, drug smuggling and witchcraft.

In 2013, the Saudis beheaded a young Sri Lankan housemaid for killing an infant left in her care, rejecting repeated appeals by the Indian Ocean island against her death sentence. Colombo recalled its ambassador from Riyadh in protest.

Saudi Arabia, currently chair of the U.N. Human Rights Council, has executed more than 150 people this year, mostly by public beheading, the largest number of executions in 20 years, rights group Amnesty International said last month. 

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