Saudi Arabia seeking new executioners
Who'll make the cut?Who'll make the cut?

Saudi Arabia seeking new executioners

Kingdom has seen a sharp rise in the number of beheadings; low-paying job requires no qualifications

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: A Saudi executioner displays his sword. (YouTube/MEMRITVVideos)
Illustrative: A Saudi executioner displays his sword. (YouTube/MEMRITVVideos)

Saudi Arabia advertised on Monday that it was seeking eight new executioners to carry out beheadings, as authorities try to keep up with the rising number of death sentences.

According to a report from the Reuters news agency, the positions of “religious functionaries” carried a job description that called for “executing a judgement of death” as well as amputations.

The advertisement was posted to the civil service jobs portal and noted that no qualifications were required for the job.

Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death, usually publicly, under Saudi Arabia’s strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Since the beginning of 2015 the kingdom has executed over 80 people, close to the number that were killed during the whole of last year.

Diplomats suggested that the appointment of more judges has increased the rate of hearings in appeal cases, leading to a rise in executions, the report said. Political analysts have also theorized the executions are intended to show a firm hand in the face of regional instability.

On Sunday Saudi Arabia beheaded a Pakistani who had been sentenced to death for drug smuggling, bringing to 84 the number of executions in the ultra-conservative kingdom this year, the interior ministry said.

Iftikhar Ahmed Mohammed Anayat was found guilty of attempting to smuggle heroin into the kingdom in balloons concealed in his stomach, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

He was executed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for its use of the death penalty despite criticism from human rights watchdogs.

Saudi Arabia ranked in the top five countries for death sentences in 2014, according to a report from rights group Amnesty International. With at least 90 executions, the kingdom was in third place behind Iran with 389 officially announced and at least another 454 that authorities didn’t admit.

China topped the list with thousands of death sentences — more than the rest of the world put together, Amnesty said — but no official figures are released, making accurate estimates difficult.

Iraq was in fourth place with at least 61 and the United States came next with 35 executions in 2014.

AFP contributed to this report.

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