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Last updated: 03 October, 2005 - Published 18:39 GMT
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Saudi prisoners ‘like Battery chicken in cells’

“A Pakistani national was beheaded in front of us a couple of weeks ago,” recalls a Sri Lankan inmate at al-Hair prison in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh.

“He was held here in the prison more than two years in the prison before carrying out the capital punishment.”

Three Sri Lankans, DD Ranjith de Silva, EJ Victor Corea and Sanath Pushpakumara were sentenced to death for theft and threatening civilians in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

President Bush with King (Crown prince) Abdullah
President Bush is a close friend of Saudi Royals

“But the Pakistani national was sentenced for bringing Heroin into the country,” de Silva added.

All three Sri Lankans accept they committed an offence. But they refused to accept the crime merited capital punishment.

They have already spent more than a year in the prison awaiting their fateful day.

Ranjith Silva said the inmates usually do not sleep on Thursdays awaiting fateful Fridays.

Speaking from his prison cell at No.9 ward of the al-Hair jail, he told that many inmates awaiting their fate are suffering from severe psychological trauma.

“One inmate is waiting in the cell for nearly ten years now. Many have already gone mad.”

He accused Saudi authorities of maintaining double standards towards prisoners.

Foreign nationals, who were given short term prison sentences, he says, are usually spending much longer than the original sentence, while Saudi nationals are allowed to leave at the end of their sentence.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Inmates say King Abdullah is tough on prisoners

Unlike in Sri Lanka and many other countries, according to Ranjith de Silva, living conditions are far better in the prison.

“But I haven’t seen the sunlight for more than a year now. We are like Battery chicken.”

The three inmates have long been campaigning to save their lives.

De Silva says Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse also promised to “do everything possible” to assure their release.

London based human rights watchdog Amnesty International also urged Saudi authorities to alter their death sentences.

“The King may grant clemency, but if he chooses to ratify their sentences, they could be executed at any time,” stated the AI urgent appeal issued on 22 July.

However, Saudi authorities are yet to respond to the constant appeals made by the Sri Lankan authorities and human rights activists.

“I would like to explore every possible avenue as it is our lives on stake,” emotional de Silva could not hide his breaking voice.

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