I just read a powerful exerpt about Saudi executioners from Lew Rockwell's blog. In it, Charles Featherstone relates the story of a Saudi executioner - who beheads his victims with a sword. However, Saudi executioners are not just deadly swordsmen, they are counselors to the victim's family and often try to convince the family to give clemency. Apparently in conservative Islam, the victim's family can stop an execution at any point - even as the sword is raised above the convict's neck.
While Saudi Arabia and North Africa have horrible reputations for dispensing corporal punishment, the fact that they put clemency in the hands of a victim's family is quite ingenious. If an advocate for the accused can convince a family member that he should not die for his crime, then he certainly deserves to live.
Also interesting is that the executioner has a special sword on reserve when he must behead more than five people in a short time. Wow.