1960: Tibur Mikulich, Hungarian traitor

Add comment October 6th, 2020 Headsman

Hungarian pharmacist Tibor Mikulich was hanged on this date in 1960.

Mikulich was an army lieutenant in 1944, who became part of the circle of officers plotting a national uprising against the German occupation.

Which would all have been to his credit except that he betrayed that plot to the collaborating Hungarian administration with the expected harvest of arrests and executions by the fash.

After the war he had to live underground, and impressively managed to do that until 1958 when Romanian authorities arrested him. (Several people caught prison terms for helping to shelter him.)

His hanging-date was somewhat thoughtlessly also that of the martyrs of Arad, great Hungarian national heroes.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Espionage,Execution,Hanged,History,Hungary,Occupation and Colonialism

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1965: The Carrillos, by the ELN

Add comment September 25th, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1965, a Peruvian guerrilla movement called National Liberation Army (ELN) seized the Chapi hacienda and executed the gamonal Gonzalo Carrillo Rocha and his nephew Miguel Carrillo Cazorla. In the words of the military report on events quoted in this doctoral thesis:

On September 25th at 5.00 am, the workers of the hacienda heard successive detonations and firearms. They were communicated that strange men had arrived at the estate armed. They heard two bells (…) so they went into the courtyard of the hacienda house and found several gunmen, only one of those who spoke Quechua. He ordered to stay in the yard, to let them know that they had killed the Carrillo and since that moment Chapi’s land would be theirs, as well as all the products. They also said that they could have the cattle and every good the hacienda had.


Video “La ejecución de los hacendados Carrillo a manos del ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional 1965) en la provincia Ayacuchana de La Mar” as posted here.

This decidedly extrajudicial killing took place against a background of years of conflict between these mighty owners and the peasantry. The ELN’s founder Hector Bejar, in his his Notes on a Guerrilla Experience written during his subsequent imprisonment, described the grievances held against these provincial lords, “distinguished by their harsh and ruthless methods”:

The response to the claims of the workers whom the Carrillos forced to provide services for free had always been violent. The rebels were hanged, flogged, and shackled in the hacienda house.

In January 1963, Miguel Carrillo personally strangled and then slaughtered Julián Huamán, a settler from Orónjoy, one of the hacienda’s “payments”: he had dared to claim a bull that Carrillo had sold without belonging to him. Not happy with that. He threatened to do the same to any future complainer. …

Among innumerable other abuses, [peasants] accused the Carrillos of having raped the following peasant women: Ignacia Orihuela, Lorenza Balboa de Huamán, Mercedes Pacheco de Huamán, Rosa Santa Cruz de Sánchez, Evarista Sánchez de Cose, the settler’s wife and youngest daughter Emilio Contreras. They accused Miguel Carrillo of having mistreated, causing serious injuries, Mrs. Catalina Orihuela de Ccorahua and of having stolen the cattle and horses of 10 settlers.

As is the custom in these cases, a long and tedious file was started. Despite being guilty of a homicide perpetrated in the presence of numerous witnesses, Miguel Carrillo was immediately released and the complainants were arrested “for attempting against Mr. Carrillo’s freedom.”

The judicial machinery in the power of the gamonales in the area quickly began to work: the claimants were accused of the theft of 20 thousand soles and imprisoned for four years.

While the Carrillos might have been exceptional in their cruelty, the gross concentration of wealth and power in the hands of landowners was what made such exceptions possible — and it was this systematic wrong that motivated the ELN.

Great property yes, but its extension is not synonymous with wealth but with hoarding and criminal negligence. Greedy, ignorant and miserable, the landlord is the main obstacle to progress. He not only stubbornly opposes schools and fights teachers; he prevents his workers from prospering more than he sees fit, punishes those who raise excess livestock and uses fierce retaliation. Their spiritual misery is translated into the irremediable poverty of hundreds of families and their material misery is the result of it. He fears the competition of his servants, he knows he is useless and parasitic, but fiercely defends his parasitism.

A speedy counterinsurgency push by the army following the Chapi affair dispersed the ELN by the year’s end, but their legacy yet lives. Bejar is still a public intellectual in Peru, a university professor and newspaper columnist. Several ELN veterans went on to fight with Che Guevara in the latter’s fatal Bolivia campaign.

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1962: Kartosuwirio, Darul Islam leader

Add comment September 5th, 2020 Headsman

Javanese Islamist rebel Soekarmadji Maridjan Kartosuwiryo (alternatively, Kartosuwirjo or Kartosuwirio) was executed on this date in 1962.

A onetime student of the Islamic trade unionist Tjokroaminoto, who also taught Indonesia’s first president Sukarno,* Kartosuwirio abandoned medical studies to follow a path in religion and politics.

By the late 1930s he led a movement within what was then still a Dutch colony aiming for an independent Indonesia under Islamic law. Japanese occupation during World War II led him to create a resistance militia, Darul Islam, and it was this force that enabled him to establish an embryonic (so he hoped) Islamic state in West Java after the war. Allied movements in Aceh (northernmost tip of the island of Sumatra) and South Sulawesi rallied to his banner, and for some years in the 1950s these guerrillas dominated the countrysides of these territories.

The aforementioned former student Sukarno was riding the tiger in these years, governing a fractious independent Indonesia that forever looked in danger of spinning apart — due not only to Islamic discontent but regional, ethnic, and ideological hostilities.

Sukarno’s solution to this rolling crisis was, by 1957, to implement “Guided Democracy” in order to tamp down the dangerous centrifugal tendencies enabled by the previous, less-guided version.

While this innovation did not hold long-term, it did provide Sukarno with the tools to come to grips with movements like Darul Islam, which was hunted to ground in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Kartosuwirio was captured in early 1962, and made to broadcast a stand-down order to his dwindling ranks of comrades. He was then given over to a court-martial and shot.

Although Darul Islam went to the grave with him, its influence lives on. Veterans of Darul Islam later helped establish the still-extant regional militant network Jemaah Islamiyah, and founded a 1970s-1980s terrorist outfit, Komando Jihad. A regional insurgency also continued in Aceh until around 2005, again peopled by numerous folks who had once fought for Kartosuwirio.

* Sukarno’s first wife was Tjokroaminoto’s daughter. They divorced after a couple of years, with the consequences you would imagine for the Sukarno-Tjokroaminoto relationship.

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1961: Edwin Bush, Identikitted

Add comment July 6th, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1961, Edwin Bush was hanged at Pentonville Prison. On March 3 of that same year, he’d stabbed to death an assistant at a Loondon antiques shop just off Charing Cross, using a pair of antique daggers from the shop’s own stock. (The scene of this long-ago crime is presently a bookstore.)


The Identikit sketch, and the actual photo, of the culprit.

Although a small-time criminal, Bush was an important milestone in the evolution of the panopticon.

Poor Elsie May Batten had been attacked early in the morning, and nobody witnessed the crime. The killer/robber (he stole a sword that he later sold for 15 quid — nothing else) hadn’t left behind any usable physical clues.

“It could have taken weeks to identify the culprit,” notes this MyLondon.News profile, “but luckily a change in police technology would be of great assistance.” This new system, called Identikit,

used a standardised set of facial features to help a witness build a more accurate picture of a suspect.

In shop owner Louis Meier’s interview, Identikit was used to build a picture of the suspicious man who had gone into the shop the day before Elsie’s killing to admire the sword.

Another witness, who had seen a man and his blond girlfriend try to sell a sword on St Martin’s Lane that very same day, also did the Identikit procedure. Two facial likeness from two different witnesses were unmistakably the same man — and they were printed in the local newspapers asking people if they had seen a man looking like this and his blond girlfriend.

Janet Wheeler, the 17-year-old blond girlfriend of Bush, saw the Identikit and joked about how they fitted the description, unaware of what her boyfriend had done.

But Eddie couldn’t count on such naivete from Londoners who weren’t his girlfriend. An eagle-eyed beat cop recognized Bush from the same wanted pictures and arrested him on March 16, just steps away from the antiquarian. He was with Janet, shopping together for engagement rings. Once they had him, fingerprints, lineup identifications, and eventually a confession all fell into place.

What’s been left unspoken thus far is the story’s racial character, but that factor permeates everything. Edwin Bush’s mixed Asian-white parentage helped consign him to the periphery of London’s economic life, his unusual look possibly helped cinch the surveillance triumph for Identikit … and if Bush is to be believed, it was everyday racism that triggered his crime.

Provoked, he said, when he visited the store just to browse for the second consecutive day only to have Batten drop a racial slur on him (“You niggers are all the same. You come in and never buy anything.”), Bush

went back to the shop and started looking through the daggers, telling her that I might want to buy one, but I picked one up and hit her in the back. I then lost my nerve and picked up a stone vase and hit her with it. I grabbed a knife and hit her once in the stomach and once in the neck.

Of course, only Bush and Batten were present for their conversation, and it must be acknowledged that when Bush made this allegation about his victim, he needed to give the courts reason to mitigate his sentence.

You can hear all about the case on your run or commute in episode 7 of the Murder Mile UK crime podcast.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Murder,Notable Sleuthing,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Theft

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1967: The USS Liberty attack … after executions in El Arish?

Add comment June 8th, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1967, during the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats assailed the USS Liberty, an allied American communications (read: espionage) vessel — not an execution by any stretch, but perhaps occasioned by other executions?

On a sunlit afternoon in the Mediterranean the Liberty, about 13 miles off the coast of Gaza which Israel was then engaged in prying from Egypt’s hands, sunbathing American seamen found themselves suddenly being bombed by Israeli planes, and even found their lifeboats strafed by those same planes — clearly intent upon sinking the Liberty with no survivors. A torpedo hit amidships ripped open the ship at the waterline.

The Liberty was the only large ship anywhere in the vicinity and recordings of the Israeli fighter pilots’ communications with their control tower confirm that her prominent U.S. markings were observed by her assailants.

Only by dint of some heroic and lucky jury-rigging was the ship’s communications tower coaxed to send out a life-saving SOS to the U.S. Sixth Fleet, maneuvering hundreds of miles distant. In all, 34 Americans lost their lives in what Wikipedia delicately calls the USS Liberty Incident; another 170-plus were injured, while the Liberty herself limped back to Malta for repairs. She’d be decommissioned in 1968.

This shock bloodbath between two countries who have proven firm and ever firmer allies in the half-century since has long been shrouded in mystery and speculation.

Sure, maybe the U.S. prized its statecraft enough to wave the whole thing off as an accident. But what compelling motivation drove Israel to attack the Liberty — at the risk of jeopardizing its relationship its superpower partner?

Many far wiser than a humble headsman have had a go at this question. In his history of the National Security Agency, Body of Secrets, James Bamford suggests that the Liberty‘s offense in Israeli eyes resided in its proximity to a number of war crimes that she would be able to document — including mass executions of Egyptian POWs at the north Sinai town of El Arish in the aftermath of a nearby battle.

Although no one on the ship knew it at the time, the Liberty had suddenly trespassed into a private horror. At that very moment, near the minaret at El Arish, Israeli forces were engaged in a criminal slaughter.

By June 8, three days after Israel launched the war, Egyptian prisoners in the Sinai had become nuisances. There was no place to house them, not enough Israelis to watch them, and few vehicles to transport them to prison camps. But there was another way to deal with them.

As the Liberty sat within eyeshot of El Arish, eavesdropping on surrounding communications, Israeli soldiers turned the town into a slaughterhouse, systematically butchering their prisoners. In the shadow of the El Arish mosque, they lined up about sixty unarmed Egyptian prisoners, hands tied behind their backs, and then opened fire with machine guns until the pale desert sand turned red. Then they forced other prisoners to bury the victims in mass graves. “I saw a line of prisoners, civilians and military,” said Abdelsalam Moussa, one of those who dug the graves, “and they opened fire at them all at once. When they were dead, they told us to buiy them.” Nearby, another group of Israelis gunned down thirty more prisoners and then ordered some Bedouins to cover them with sand.

In still another incident at El Arish, the Israeli journalist Gabi Bron saw about 150 Egyptian POWs sitting on the ground, crowded together with their hands held at the backs of their necks. “The Egyptian prisoners of war were ordered to dig pits and then army police shot them to death,” Bron said. “I witnessed the executions with my own eyes on the morning of June eighth, in the airport area of El Arish.”

The Israeli military historian Aryeh Yitzhaki, who worked in the army’s history department after the war, said he and other officers collected testimony from dozens of soldiers who admitted killing POWs. According to Yitzhaki, Israeli troops killed, in cold blood, as many as 1,000 Egyptian prisoners in the Sinai, including some 400 in the sand dunes of El Arish.

Above interpretation suffices as a hook for this here executions blog but its explanatory force feels far less than sufficient.

The facts alleged here against Israel have been contested; one of the sources quoted above, Gabi Bron, has said that only five (not 150) prisoners were executed at El-Arish, and that the dead there were overwhelmingly legitimate battle casualties. But let an intentional massacre number not merely hundreds but thousands upon millions and still we would sit very far from dampening the ardor for any policy that has been decided in Washington or Langley. Surely it is unnecessary to dwell upon what these same statesmen were simultaneously doing in Southeast Asia.

Where that leaves the matter is a still-going debate. Was it a false flag attack meant to be laid to Israel’s Arab enemies? Did the spy ship need to be blinded to hide Israel’s forthcoming (June 9-10) incursion into the Golan Heights? Do war atrocities reveal more than this writer supposes? Or are we really to take seriously the thought-it-was-an-Egyptian-ship official line?

A few books about the U.S.S. Liberty

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Egypt,History,Israel,Known But To God,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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1966: Lau Pui

Add comment April 16th, 2020 Headsman

At 10.05 p.m. on Tuesday the 21st of September 1965 a home made bomb was detonated in a gambling den in Kowloon Tsai in Hong Kong. One man died at the scene and a further 23 were injured, of whom two later died … [a witness] told the court that Lau, “a self-confessed drug addict” who had admitted to detonating the bomb, “because he had not only been refused a job by Lau Fai, one of the owners of the gambling den] but had also been publicly insulted by him”.

-From the April 16, 2020 Facebook post of the Capital Punishment UK Facebook page. Click through for a bit of history — and some great gallows photos — from British Hong Kong.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Hong Kong,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism

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1968: My Lai Massacre

Add comment March 16th, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1968, the U.S. Army meted out the signature single atrocity of the Vietnam War, the My Lai Massacre — wanton slaughter of 400 to 500 Vietnamese civilians over the span of four evil hours that would emerge as practically metonymous for twenty evil years in Indochina.


Combat photographer Ronald Haeberle shot a number of pictures on that day, although by his own admission he also failed to intervene against the slaughter and he destroyed some of the most incriminating shots. Nevertheless, his iconic photo of bodies heaped on a path became the iconic antiwar poster “And babies”.

The hero on that day was an American helicopter pilot who, seeing the slaughter unfolding, set his warship down in front of his wilding countrymen and trained guns upon them to still their rampage, then escorted several Vietnamese people next in line for murder to his choppers and whisked them to safety. The late Hugh Thompson revisited the site of the massacre for 30th anniversary commemorations and told a U.S. reporter,

“One of the ladies that we had helped out that day came up to me and asked, ‘Why didn’t the people who committed these acts come back with you?’ And I was just devastated. And then she finished her sentence: she said, ‘So we could forgive them.’ I’m not man enough to do that. I’m sorry. I wish I was, but I won’t lie to anybody. I’m not that much of a man.” (Source)

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1966: Leftists during the Guatemalan Civil War

Add comment March 6th, 2020 Headsman

The declassified CIA cable that follows (original here) captures an extrajudicial execution of leftists during Guatemala’s long dirty war.

The following Guatemalan Communists and terrorists were executed secretly by Guatemalan authorities on the night of 6 March 1966:

A. Victor Manuel Gutierrez Garbin, leader of the PGT group living in exile in Mexico.

B. Francisco “Paco” Amado Granados, prominent Guatemalan leftist and a leader of the 13 November Revolutionary Movement (MR-13), guerrilla organization headed by Marco Antonio Yon Sosa.

C. Carlos Barillas Sosa (also known as Carlos Sosa Barillas), half-brother of Yon Sosa.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Execution,Guatemala,History,No Formal Charge,Power,Revolutionaries,Torture,Wartime Executions

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1964: Nguyen Van Nhung, Diem executioner

Add comment January 31st, 2020 Headsman

Vietnamese General Nguyen Van Nhung was (apparently) executed on this date in 1964.

He was the victim of a South Vietnamese coup, after having been a key operative in the previous one. Back on 2 November 1963, he’d piled into the back of an armored personnel carrier with the fresh-deposed President Ngo Dinh Diem, and Diem’s brother Ngô Dình Nhu. When the APC arrived at its destination, Diem and Nhu were both dead.

According to the other putchist in the vehicle with him,

As we rode back to the Joint General Staff headquarters, Diem sat silently, but Nhu and the captain [Nhung] began to insult each other. I don’t know who started it. The name-calling grew passionate. The captain had hated Nhu before. Now he was charged with emotion … [and] lunged at Nhu with a bayonet and stabbed him again and again, maybe fifteen or twenty times. Still in a rage, he turned to Diem, took out his revolver and shot him in the head. Then he looked back at Nhu, who was lying on the floor, twitching. He put a bullet into his head too. Neither Diem nor Nhu ever defended themselves. Their hands were tied. (Source)

Nhung’s turn as executioner — no unfamiliar role; the guy was notorious for tallying his career kills in notches on his gun barrel — made his boss Duong Van Minh the new President … for all of three months. By all accounts he was a useless executive:

the ruling generals were paralyzed by ineptitude. They had formed a military revolutionary council, composed of twelve members who bickered endlessly. Their normal chairman, General Minh, boasted that the collegial arrangement would guarantee against the autocratic excesses of the old regime. In reality, Minh had contrived the committee in order to bolster his prestige without increasing his responsibility. He was a model of lethargy, lacking both the skill and the inclination to govern. As he confided to me one morning as we chatted in his headquarters, he preferred to play tennis and tend to his orchids and exotic birds than to preside over tedious meetings and unravel bureaucratic tangles … In a cable to Washington, [U.S. ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge] described Minh as a “good, well-intentioned man,” but added a prophetic note: “Will he be strong enough to get on top of things?”

On 30 January 1964, Minh was overthrown by another general, Nguyen Khánh, in a bloodless dawn coup. Well, virtually bloodless. The sole casualty was Nguyen Van Nhung, who paid for the assassination of Diem the next day via a pistol shot to the head at a Saigon villa. The official story promulgated by the new regime described him instead committing suicide in shame for the Diem murder.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Executioners,History,No Formal Charge,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Vietnam,Wartime Executions

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1963: Tankeu Noé, Cameroon guerrilla

Add comment January 3rd, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1963, Cameroon guerrilla Tankeu Noé

He had been a commander of rebels in Cameroon’s Littoral Province in the 1950s — fighting what was then a nationalist war against the French, who still held the central African territory as a colony.*

Cameroon attained independence in 1960 but Noé’s outlawed Marxist Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC) stayed outlawed, its leadership in exile. Cameroon’s post-colonial state looked a lot to the UPC like the colonial state: working hand in glove with the French military, both parties intent on crushing the militants. The new ruler of Cameroon, Ahmadou Ahidjo,** used the continuing fight against the insurgency to consolidate power in his own hands, eventually establishing a one-party state.

And the fight was exceptionally brutal, with mass forced resettlement and tens of thousands killed across the last years of French rule and the first years of “independence”. In one noteworthy incident in 1962, dozens of UPC fighters were asphyxiated after being packed together into a sealed train. When the Catholic archbishop publicized the incident and announced plans to say a requiem mass, Ahidjo promptly had him expelled.

Still fighting, Tankeu Noé was captured by the new boss/old boss joint military operations in 1963. Exploiting new powers arrogated that year to suppress regime opponents, the government had him shot in public in Douala, lashed to a power pole.

His movement was strangled over the ensuing years, effectively vanishing after the 1971 execution of Ernest Ouandie. It’s resurfaced as a legitimate political party in 1991 and has contested and sometimes won seats in various elections ever since.

* France had taken it from Germany after World War I.

** Ahidjo finally resigned for health reasons in 1982; within months, he would take exile refuge in France, pursued by an in absentia death sentence. He never returned to Cameroon; he was officially rehabilitated after his 1989 death in Senegal.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Cameroon,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Guerrillas,History,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Revolutionaries,Shot,Soldiers,Wartime Executions

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