Belarus's former executioner backs death for metro bombers
Colonel Oleg Alkayev organised the shootings of more than 100 people as chief executioner in Belarus, Europe's only country to administer the death penalty.
Now he calls his job "disgusting" and fled Belarus after alleging the government killed opposition figures. But he still backs using the measure against the Minsk metro bombing masterminds, who went on trial Thursday.
Alkayev oversaw the shooting of prisoners in the neck 134 times while serving as governor at Minsk's notorious Prison No. 1.
But he has now lived in Germany for several years, forced to flee Belarus after saying the authorities are behind disappearances and deaths of several opposition figures.
The execution of prisoners never varies, said Alkayev, who headed a group of 13 executioners between 1996 and 2001.
"The site of the execution or that of the burial varies, but the rest always goes on in the same manner," Alkayev told AFP in a telephone interview.
Six months to one year may pass between the sentence and the execution. Only very rarely does President Alexander Lukashenko issue a pardon.
Afterwards, the bodies are buried in plastic bags in a secret location. Their families are forbidden from claiming the convicts' remains.
"The prosecutor announces to the convict that his request for pardon has been rejected and that the court decision will now be carried out," Akayev writes in his 2006 book titled "The Death Squad".
"The convict is therefore on the brink of madness," he writes in the book, which is banned in Belarus but is available on the Internet and has been translated into English, Polish, and Dutch.
"His eyes are tied shut and he is taken to a location where the executioner gets his pistol ready. Two assistants put the convict to his knees in front of a device meant to retain the bullets, then the executioner shoots the convict in the neck."
"He dies almost immediately. The process takes only two minutes," he writes.
"Sometimes the executioner makes a mistake and one bullet doesn't do it," he explained to AFP in the interview.
A prosecutor and interior ministry officers attend the execution, along with a doctor who has to pronounce the convict dead.
Alkayev said he was proud to have managed to "humanise" the procedure a little after he attended the shocking execution of five convicts held in a forest.
He then arranged for convicts to be alone in a closed room during the shooting of others, unable to hear gunshots and moans of the others. He also permitted those on death row to receive food parcels.
"They were happy to receive parcels, and it wasn't because of the bacon. It meant that the execution would not take place in the following week," Alkayev explained.
The colonel nevertheless told of his "extreme disgust" at the job, which he shared with his subordinates, none of whom had the right to tell anybody about their line of work.
"Those who became euphoric during the execution were immediately fired from the group. I don't support sadists. I remember only two such perverts," he says in his book.
"Nobody does this work with pleasure. But people become indifferent. If you don't suppress your emotions, you go crazy," he said.
Despite his experience, Alkayev said he was in favour of keeping the death penalty in Belarus and did not doubt that the two young men accused of the April bombing in the Minsk metro would receive a death sentence for their "terrorism" charges, as the prosecutors have suggested.
"According to the law, no other option exists after murdering 12 people," he said.
"Those who don't know the criminals personally think that the executions are inhumane. But one cannot turn a wolf into a vegetarian," he said.
"There were no innocents among the 134 people executed under my supervision. They were people who carefully prepared their crimes, who did not deny their guilt, and did not seek to justify themselves."
© 2011 AFP