A maid convicted of killing a baby has been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, despite being only 17 at the time of the crime.
Rizana Nafeek was beheaded by sword in Dawadmy, near the capital Riyadh, on Wednesday morning.
The execution went ahead despite years of international appeals from Miss Nafeek’s family and human rights groups.
Supporters of the housemaid, from Sri Lanka, say the age on her passport was changed so she could get work and that according to her birth certificate she was just 17 at the time.
The Sri Lankan government said it ‘deplores the execution’ and human rights groups also condemned her death.
Miss Nafeek was sentenced to death in 2007 after her Saudi employer accused her of strangling his four-month-old baby two years earlier after a dispute with the child’s mother.
But Miss Nafeek always protested her innocence and said the baby had choked to death while being bottle fed.
Her parents repeatedly appealed to King Abdullah to pardon their daughter.
The Sri Lankan government also appealed against the death penalty but the Saudi Supreme Court upheld it in 2010.
It was again ratified by the Saudi interior ministry yesterday.
The Sri Lankan foreign ministry said in a statement that President Mahinda Rajapaksa twice personally appealed to the Saudi government to halt the execution and pardon Miss Nafeek.
It added: ‘President Rajapaksa and the government of Sri Lanka deplore the execution of Miss Rizana Nafeek despite all efforts at the highest level of the government and the outcry of the people locally and internationally over the death sentence of a juvenile housemaid.’
The government held a minute’s silence on Wednesday.
Amnesty International said the passport Miss Nafeek used to enter Saudi Arabia in May 2005 stated she was born in February, 1982.
However, the group said her birth certificate states she was born six years later, making her just 17 at the time of the baby’s death.
Human Rights Watch also condemned the execution.
Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at the organisation, said: ‘Saudi Arabia is one of just three countries that executes people for crimes they committed as children.
Rizana Nafeek’s mother, left, repeatedly appealed to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to pardon their daughter but the death penalty was ratified on Wednesday
‘In executing Rizana Nafeek, Saudi authorities demonstrated callous disregard for basic humanity as well as Saudi Arabia’s international legal obligations.’
Miss Nafeek said her original confession and been made under duress and there translation services were not made available to her.
Amnesty International said Miss Nafeek had no access to lawyers either during her pre-trial interrogation or at her 2007 trial.
Philip Luther, the organisation’s Middle East and North Africa programme director, said the day before the execution: ‘It appears that she was herself a child at the time and there are real concerns about the fairness of her trial.’
Saudi households are highly dependent on housemaids from African and South Asian countries and there are reportedly 1.5million domestic servants working in the oil-rich country.
There have been reported cases of domestic abuse in which families mistreat their maids, who have then attacked the children of their employers.
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that follows the strict Wahhabi school of Islam and applies sharia law.
Last year as many as 76 people were beheaded last year, according to The Telegraph.