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Sri Lankan parents to to plea for teen on death row

The parents of a maid sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia after a baby died in her care will travel to the kingdom to plea for clemency to the boy's parents.

A Saudi court sentenced Rizana Nafeek, 19, to death last month and gave her until Monday to appeal the sentence. Human rights activists have said the boy's death appeared to be an accident.

The Sri Lankan Embassy has already filed an appeal on Nafeek's behalf, said Hussein Bhaila, Sri Lanka's deputy foreign minister, but was also hoping that a delegation that includes Nafeek's parents would help save her from execution.

The group, which is to include Bhaila and other officials as well, was to leave Monday, but had not received visas. Bhaila met the Saudi Arabian ambassador Monday afternoon and was told there will be "no problem" getting the visas in time for their trip, which was rescheduled for Friday, he said.

"We intend to meet religious leaders and higher officials and persuade the (boy's) parents to grant clemency to Nafeek," Bhaila said.

In addition to the appeal, a last-minute pardon by the infant's parents could spare Nafeek. But so far they have refused to grant it.

Nafeek arrived in Saudi Arabia two years ago to work as a housemaid, but was given the additional duty of looking after the baby, which she was not trained to do. The Sri Lankan Embassy says the infant died on May 22, 2005, while she was bottle-feeding him.

Nafeek who was without legal representation at trial, allegedly confessed, according to the embassy, but then recanted, saying her confession was obtained under duress.

Nafeek's parents, from a poor village in war-wracked eastern Sri Lanka, said Sunday that their daughter went to Saudi Arabia to earn desperately needed money, and they hoped that the baby's parents would forgive her.

"I will ask them to pardon my daughter for the sake of Allah, it was not her intention to kill," the girl's father, Mohammad Sultan Nafeek, said Sunday.

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