RIYADH: Saudi Arabia beheaded a Sri Lankan maid on Wednesday after she was convicted of murdering her employer's baby, the interior ministry announced, despite calls for a stay of execution.
Rizana Nafeek smothered the infant to death after an argument with the child's mother, her employer, the ministry statement carried by the official SPA news agency said.
She was beheaded in the Dawadmi province near the capital Riyadh.
Human Rights Watch had on Tuesday urged Saudi King Abdullah and the interior ministry to halt Nafeek's execution.
The New York-based watchdog said that Nafeek, who was only 17 when the incident occurred in 2005, had retracted "a confession that she said was made under duress, and says that the baby died in a choking accident while drinking from a bottle."
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had sent an appeal to King Abdullah on Sunday "requesting a stay of the execution until a settlement can be reached between the baby’s family and a Saudi reconciliation committee," said HRW.
HRW "opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty and finality," it said. "Given the possibility of mistakes in any criminal justice system, innocent people may be executed."
This is the second execution of the year in Saudi Arabia after a Syrian was beheaded on Tuesday for drug trafficking.
Last year, the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom beheaded 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. HRW put the number at 69.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under its strict version of sharia, or Islamic law.