1998: Wissam Issa and Hassan Abu Jabal

On this date in 1998,* Wissam Issa and Hassan Jabal were shockingly hanged in public in Tabarja, Lebanon.

Executions hadn’t seen the outside of prison walls in that country for 15 years at that time — back when there was a civil war on.

But Issa and Jabal were condemned for a home burgling attempt gone wrong(er): when the owners unexpectedly returned, Issa fled — but Jabal gunned them down. They both answered for the murders.

Marched out onto a somewhat jerry-built hanging platform (Issa was stoic; Jabal, unmanned), the two died at dawn before a crowd of 1,500 to 2,000 spectators … and plenty of cameras. The grisly proceedings made the nightly news, of course.

“It was horrible,” one Tabarja woman remembered. “The kids were playing at hanging each other afterwards at school.”

Oddly enough, it was also the last hanging (private or public) for over five more years to come. Later in 1998, a staunch death penalty foe became Prime Minister, and refused to approve any execution warrants.

* Reports of May 25 instead of May 19 are out there, but that’s easily disproven by, e.g., this Robert Fisk dispatch on the hanging which saw print on May 21, 1998.

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