Sri Lankan Arrest for Witchcraft: Woman Faces Execution

A Sri Lankan woman is being held on charges of witchcraft; if convicted, she could face life in prison or even beheading. Saudi Arabia is known for executing those charged of practicing sorcery or witchcraft.

A Saudi man reported the woman to authorities after his daughter "suddenly started acting in an abnormal way, and that happened after she came close to the Sri Lankan woman," the daily Okaz has reported.

"He reported her to the security forces, asking for her arrest and the specialized units dealt with the situation swiftly…and succeeded in arresting her," the Ozak noted.

She is still being held in jail, but activists are already working on her behalf to avoid punishment.

Witchcraft and sorcery contradict Shariah law, which is practiced in Saudi Arabia and is punishable by death. In December, Amina bint Abdul Hlaim bin Salem Nasser was executed for "witchcraft and sorcery."

"While we don't know the details of the acts which the authorities accused Amina of committing, the charge of sorcery has often been used in Saudi Arabia to punish people, generally after unfair trials for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion," Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Interim Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program said in a statement.

Amnesty International has been very vocal in its condemnation of the executions. "The charges of 'witchcraft and sorcery' are not defined as crimes in Saudi Arabia and to use them to subject someone to the cruel and extreme penalty of execution is truly appalling," said Luther.

According to Amnesty, 79 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in 2011, up from the 27 executed in 2010. That rise is "deeply disturbing," Luther noted. "We regularly call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to impose a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty."