Saudis Defend Maid's Execution by Decapitation, Citizens Angered

Saudi Arabian officials defended their decision to execute a maid accused of murder, angering human rights groups. Rizana Nafeek was beheaded last week, setting off a whirlwind of criticism even though the government has said it stands by its decision.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia categorically rejects any interference in its affairs or in the provisions of its judiciary under any justifications," a statement by the Saudi Press Agency read, according to CNN.

Riyadh "deplores the statements made… over the execution of a Sri Lankan maid who had plotted and killed an infant by suffocating him to death, one week after she arrived in the kingdom," al Jazeera reported.

Rizana told Human Rights Watch that her "confession" of the baby's murder was made under duress. The baby's family, however, maintained that she purposely strangled the child "after an argument with the child's mother," al Jazeera said. Rizana said that the baby choked while he was being fed.

One of the key issues at hand is Rizana's age and whether she was old enough to be sentenced to death. The Sri Lankan government has stated that Rizana was only 17, making her a minor and ineligible to work in Saudi Arabia. However, she allegedly had a passport, which said she was 21.

"As per her passport, she was 21-years-old when she committed the crime. The Kingdom does not allow minors to be brought as workers," a spokesman for the Saudi government told al Jazeera.

"The passport is an official document issued by her government," the official statement read. And government officials said they had tried to avert executing Rizana by speaking with the family of the deceased child and encouraging "clemency or a payment of 'blood money.'"

Outside groups also tried to intervene and spare Rizana's life. These groups argued that Rizana was not provided with a lawyer or given basic rights, in addition to the allegations of a fraudulent passport.

"We pointed out to Saudi officials that Rizana came to their country as a housemaid," External Affairs Secretary Karunatilaka Amunugama said in a statement. "She was not competent or trained to look after a baby, which she had been assigned to by her employer."

According to al Jazeera, three people have already been executed in 2013.