27 November 1937
At 8 am on the morning of Saturday 27 November 1937, Sheikh Farhan al-Sa’di, an Arab village elder, was executed by hanging at the crusader castle at Acre. Described in the British press as ‘a picturesque figure, six foot tall and bearded’ and as ‘one of the most notorious trouble makers in the Jenin area of Palestine,’ he was the first suspect Arab rebel to be convicted by a summary military court under new legislation, passed by the British High Commissioner Sir Arthur Wauchope, which made the possession of any firearms a capital offence. The civil courts had no powers to overrule the verdict which was issued on Wednesday 24 November at a hastily convened sitting before three British military officers in a room above an ironmonger’s store in Haifa.1
The previous evening, a special issue of the Palestine Gazette was published, which announced that the normal right of the High Commissioner to exercise clemency would not apply to military court hearings. So the decision of the court was subject only to the approval of the British military commander in Palestine, Major General Archibald Wavell, who quickly confirmed the sentence and the Sheikh’s execution took place just three days after his conviction and just five days after his arrest. According to British newspaper reports ‘the condemned Sheikh went to the scaffold… with the stoicism of the east… and faced the hangman without flinching.’2
- ‘Sheikh Hunt Successful,’ The Yorkshire Post, 23 November 1937, p. 11, ‘Sheikh Sentenced to Death,’ The Coventry Evening Telegraph, 24 November 1937, p. 11 and Matthew Hughes, Britain’s Pacification of Palestine: The British Army, the Colonial State and the Arab Revolt, 1936-1939, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2019, p. 42.
- ‘Arab Chief Hanged: Met Death Without Flinching,’ The Belfast Telegraph, 27 November 1937, p. 13, ‘Faced Death Without Flinching,’ The Derry Journal, 29 November 1937, p. 5 and ‘Arab Sheikh Hanged,’ The Nottingham Evening Post, 27 November 1937, p. 1.
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