Report: Saudi Arabia may end practice of beheadings

A Sri Lankan vendor displays the front page of daily newspapers in Colombo on January 10, 2013. Saudi Arabia beheaded the Sri Lankan maid in early January after she was convicted of murdering her employer's baby, drawing sharp condemnation from Sri Lankan officials, who had repeatedly urged a stay of execution. Getty Images

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia A Saudi newspaper says a ministerial committee is looking into formally dropping public beheadings as a method of execution in the oil-rich kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where a death sentence results in beheading in a public square.

The authoritative daily Al-Watan says in its Sunday edition that the ministerial committee is considering fatal shootings as an alternative.

The move to end beheadings may be coming due to a shortage of swordsmen, reports Ahram online.

There have been calls in the kingdom for replacing public beheadings with lethal injections carried out in prisons.

The kingdom executes anyone convicted of murder, armed robbery, rape and trafficking in drugs.

It has executed 15 people so far this year, 76 last year and 79 in 2011.

There was no official confirmation immediately available of the newspaper's report.

The move comes fresh on the heels of the announcement last week that the executions of seven Saudis sentenced to death by crucifixion and firing squad have been postponed.

A Saudi security official said King Abdullah would review the sentences. He met families of the seven on Sunday.

The official said on Tuesday that the ruler of the southwestern province of Asir, Prince Faisal bin Abdel Aziz, ordered the postponement. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The seven were juveniles at the time they were arrested for armed robbery, a capital offense in Saudi Arabia. One told The Associated Press by telephone from prison that they were tortured to force confessions and barred access to lawyers.

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