Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Saudi Arabia is governed by Sharia and people sentenced to death are executed with a sword in accordance with Islamic law. However, fewer people are interested in a "career" in executing others, a task that requires a lot of cold blood and a lot of training in how to swing properly the sword. In fact, a memo from the Saudi Justice Ministry is bemoaning a labour shortage in people trained to use the blade.
Within the kingdom, courts are forced to compete for executioners, who must travel around the country to carry out sentences. This is slowing down the justice system. To speed matters up, the Justice Ministry has issued an order allowing courts to shoot prisoners on the grounds that this method is not unIslamic.
In reality, the lack of trained executioners has not slowed down executions in Saudi Arabia. Since the beginning 2013, at least 40 people have been put to death. The last case occurred on 14 May in Najran, in the country's south-west. The executed felon, Maneh al-Daen, had been convicted of stabbing to death a fellow tribesman. Last year, the kingdom executed 76 people.
For years, the main human rights groups and many Western governments have tried to get the Saudi kingdom to implement fairer trials and less cruel executions. However, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where the death sentence by beheading can be carried out in a public place.
The death penalty is applied in cases of murder, armed robbery, rape and drug trafficking, as well as witchcraft and sodomy.
No less cruel are sentences for minor offences s such as theft and crimes of opinion, which in addition to jail time, may include public flogging or the chopping off of hands or feet.
Recently, a case involving two men, a Lebanese and a Saudi, sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes for pushing a young woman to convert to Christianity, generated a lot of discussion in the country. They were convicted despite the fact that the young woman, who is a refugee in Sweden, defended the two, saying in a video that she had converted without compulsion.