A Sri Lankan woman could face the death penalty by beheading after she was arrested on suspicion of casting a spell on a 13-year-old girl during a family shopping trip, a police spokesman said on Wednesday.

A Saudi man had complained his daughter had “suddenly started acting in an abnormal way, and that happened after she came close to the Sri Lankan woman” in a shopping mall in the port city of Jeddah.

He reported her to the security forces, asking for her arrest and the specialised units dealt with the situation swiftly and arresting her.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that has no written criminal code and where court rulings are based on judges’ interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

“The punishment is always beheading for anyone found guilty of witchcraft,” a Saudi lawyer and human rights activist, Waleed Abu al-Khair, said.

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