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Saudi Arabia agrees to retry Sri Lankan maid sentenced to death by stoning

A Sri Lankan maid sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in Saudi Arabia has won a retrial, Sri Lanka's deputy foreign minister says. All Sri Lankan parties had joined to appeal to Saudi authorities for clemency.

Saudi authorities agreed to the retrial of the 45-year-old woman after Sri Lankan diplomats visited her in a Saudi prison on the weekend, Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva told parliament in Colombo on Tuesday, as reported by the AFP news agency.

"Through our invervention, they [the Saudi authorities] have agreed to re-open the case," de Silva said, describing the decision as "a great victory."

He said the government would provide her with legal counsel.

The woman, who has two children, was convicted in August of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. Her co-defendant, an unmarried Sri Lankan man, was also convicted and sentenced to 100 lashes.

Sri Lankan politicians from across the political spectrum joined in urging the government to negotiate with Saudi Arabia to obtain clemency for the woman and a pardon for the man.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, which represents the Muslim minority in the country, also appealed to Saudi King Salman to pardon the couple.

"Your Majesty's kind intervention in pardoning these unfortunate victims would enhance the high esteem in which Sri Lankans hold Islam, the people and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the Council wrote.

Dangerous job opportunity

The case has sparked calls from some politicians for a ban on Sri Lankan women travelling to Saudi Arabia for work.

In 2013, a Sri Lankan woman was executed by beheading in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of killing her employer's baby in 2005, when she was 17 years old. Sri Lanka maintains that she was not given a fair trial, and Saudi authorities rejected all appeals for clemency.

Murder, armed robbery, rape, adultery, drug trafficking, apostasy, witchcraft and sorcery are all offenses that are

punishable by death

in Saudi Arabia,

whose legal code adheres to the principles of strict Sharia law.

About half of those put to death are foreign nationals.

Executions in the kingdom

are carried out publicly, usually by beheading, although firing squads and stoning are used in some cases.

tj/msh (AFP)

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