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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
Saudi executioner tells all
Executioner Muhammad Saad al-Beshi (photo: Arab News)
Beshi says his job does not spoil his social life (photo: Arab News)

Saudi Arabia's leading executioner says he is "very proud to do God's work" and does not lose sleep over beheading several people in one day.

In a rare interview, Muhammad Saad al-Beshi, 42, told the Saudi daily Arab News that he had executed numerous women, as well as men.

"Despite the fact that I hate violence against women, when it comes to God's will, I have to carry it out."

He expressed indifference about the number of beheadings he was required to carry out.

I sleep very well... I live a normal life like everyone else
Muhammad Saad al-Beshi

"It doesn't matter to me: two, four, 10 - as long as I'm doing God's will, it doesn't matter how many people I execute".

Under the Gulf kingdom's strict Islamic Sharia laws, the death penalty can be imposed for murder, rape, apostasy, armed robbery, drug trafficking and repeated drug use.

The Saudi authorities report public executions regularly - and are condemned by Western human rights groups.

Choice of death

Mr Beshi said he sometimes shot dead women convicted under Sharia.

"It depends what they ask me to use. Sometimes they ask me to use a sword and sometimes a gun. But most of the time I use the sword," he said.

When they get to the execution square, their strength drains away
Muhammad Saad al-Beshi

His job at a prison in Taif, where he had to handcuff and blindfold prisoners facing death, gave him a taste for executions, he told Arab News.

Back in 1998, when he carried out his first execution in Jeddah, he was nervous, because many people were watching. But now he no longer suffers from "stage fright," he explained.

"The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword I severed his head. It rolled metres away," he said, recalling his first beheading.

"There are many people who faint when they witness an execution. I don't know why they come and watch if they don't have the stomach for it," he said.

"No one is afraid of me. I have a lot of relatives, and many friends at the mosque, and I live a normal life like everyone else. There are no drawbacks for my social life."

Treasured sword

He is a contented father of seven.

Executioner Muhammad Saad al-Beshi (photo: Arab News)
Beshi trains the next generation of executioners (photo: Arab News)

Mr Beshi said his sword was a gift from the government.

He keeps it razor sharp and sometimes his children help him clean it.

"People are amazed how fast it can separate the head from the body," he said.

Before an execution he visits the victim's family to seek forgiveness for the criminal, which can lead to the criminal's life being spared.

"I always have that hope, until the very last minute, and I pray to God to give the criminal a new lease of life."

Once an execution goes ahead, his only conversation with the prisoner is to tell him or her to recite the "Shahada" - an affirmation of Muslim faith.

"When they get to the execution square, their strength drains away. Then I read the execution order, and at a signal I cut the prisoner's head off," he said.

Training

As an experienced executioner, Mr Beshi now trains others for the grim task. He is proud that his son was taken on as an executioner.

Training focuses on how to hold the sword and where to bring the blade down.

Sometimes he also has to carry out amputations of hands or legs.

"I use a special sharp knife, not a sword. When I cut off a hand I cut it from the joint. If it is a leg the authorities specify where it is to be taken off, so I follow that."




SEE ALSO:
Saudi 'torture' condemned by UN
16 May 02  |  Middle East
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
24 May 03  |  Country profiles
Saudi Arabia bans 'indecent' cloaks
05 May 02  |  Middle East
The many faces of Sharia
21 Jun 00  |  Africa


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