'I faced crucifixion' claims Scot freed from Saudi jail

SANDY Mitchell, the Scot placed under sentence of death in Saudi Arabia, has revealed he was due to be executed by crucifixion, writes Christopher Claire.

Mitchell said he was told by his Saudi lawyer that the sentence called for the victim’s head to be "partially" severed and the body fixed to an X-shaped cross in public view for three days.

Public beheadings are routine in Saudi Arabia, but crucifixion is reserved as an exemplary punishment under sharia (Islamic) law for crimes of the utmost severity. Two highway robbers have been executed in this way in the past 20 years.

Mitchell was one of six Britons arrested in Riyadh after a series of bomb attacks on westerners three years ago. They were set free from captivity after lobbying by the British government and the Prince of Wales.

Mitchell, 44, said yesterday that he was tortured into confessing crimes that he did not commit. He was arrested in 2000 after Christopher Rodway, a British engineer, had been killed in the first attack and his wife injured.

Mitchell said he was made to stand for nine days with his hands chained above his head and prevented from sleeping.

He added that each night he was tethered hand and foot and suspended with a metal bar behind his legs to expose his buttocks and the soles of his feet. He also claimed he was beaten with an axe handle until he gave the answers his jailers were looking for.

He said: "It went on and on. I used to consider myself a strong person but everybody has their breaking point. I was alone and in pain and if it wasn’t me being beaten it was others and I could hear their screams."

He eventually confessed to being part of a bomb plot masterminded by the British embassy. "It was a ridiculous story, but that was what they wanted," he said.

The bombings are believed to have been the work of Saudi dissidents, but the local authorities had insisted they were part of a turf war between gangs of bootleggers. Alcohol is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia, but private bars in western compounds were common. The Saudi police had traditionally turned a blind eye to drinking by westerners as long as it was done behind closed doors.

Mitchell said: "The turf war did not exist. That was made up by the Saudi secret police to justify their own existence."

He was locked away in solitary confinement for almost a year before he saw a lawyer.

When he eventually was given access to a legal representative he discovered he had already been sentenced to death without a trial. No evidence other than his confession was ever brought forward. About 45 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year and 75 in 2001.

Mitchell said his Saudi lawyer had told him he had been singled out for crucifixion - the ultimate punishment allowed under sharia law. Mitchell said: "I used to think. you can take my head but you can’t take my soul."

He added that a police captain had told him that he would go "insane" if he did not confess.

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