1966: James French, fried

1 comment August 10th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1966, James French went to the Oklahoma electric chair, clinching his spot in perpetuity on last-words listicles by cracking to the press pool, “Hey, fellas. How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? French Fries!”*

French had enjoyed five years to work out this chill fare-thee-well since the calculated murder of his cellmate in 1961, back when he, French, was already serving time for murder.

It’s alleged that French committed this ruthless deed in pursuit of the mercy seat, as a form of suicide by executioner; whether this is or isn’t so he had certainly embraced the consequence by the time he presented himself to the judiciary.

“He deserved to die,” the expansive French once informed an interviewer. “And now because of what I did, I deserve to die, too. I don’t want to die. Who does? But the rules are clear: to take a life is to forfeit your own.”

It’s just that his letters imploring speedy implementation of justice could not override procedural errors in his first trial (they biased the jury by presenting French in manacles) nor his second trial (bad jury instruction by the judge) until the third time charmed in 1965.

The man could have lived a long life punning on his surname — perhaps he would have insisted on going by James Freedom as a post-9/11 America blundered into Iraq? — had he chosen to fight his death sentence, for even then the law’s French frying apparatus was grinding to a halt. Just two more executions — Aaron Mitchell and Luis Monge, both in 1967 — would take place in all the land before capital punishment went into a decade-long hiberation during which all previously existing death sentences were invalidated. French’s was the last death by electric chair until John Spenkelink in 1979 and the last ever electrocution in Oklahoma (which has used lethal injection in the modern, post-1972 era).

* His actual, and better, last words in the death chamber were by way of declining to make a final statement: “Everything’s already been said.”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Electrocuted,Execution,Gallows Humor,Milestones,Murder,Oklahoma,USA

Tags: , , ,

1966: Sayyid Qutb

1 comment August 29th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1966, author and intellectual Sayyid Qutb was hanged for plotting to overthrow the Egyptian state.

Qutb — whose names can be transliterated many ways (Saïd, Syed, Seyyid, Sayid, or Sayed; Koteb, Kotb, Qutub or Kutb) — was one of the most influential Islamist thinkers of the 20th century, and helped shape the ideas of Osama bin Laden.

A traditionally-minded Muslim civil servant in a westernizing Egypt, Qutb’s journey to radicalism is traditionally dated to his late 1940’s study abroad in the U.S. at what is now the University of Northern Colorado, where the decadence, materialism, and lax morality of the global hegemon saw him seeing existential evil in the everyday all around him:

The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs — and she shows all this and does not hide it.

Qutb left Greeley, Colo., in 1950 with a master’s degree and an intention to mount an Islamic revolution in his home country that would implement sharia and keep shapely thighs safely under wraps. (Qutb never married, bemoaning the scanty pickings of pure fish in the sea. He may have faced the gallows a virgin.)

He hooked up with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, landed in Egypt’s famously savage prisons (future president Anwar Sadat was one of his judges), and the experience of torture hardened his commitment to a vanguard-led revolution. He kept up his prolific writing output, penning perhaps his most notable work, Milestones (the text was later used against him at his capital trial).

Qutb’s release in 1964 was only for a few months, before Egyptian security got wind of a new Muslim Brotherhood plot to overthrow the government and rounded up Qutb as the supposed ringleader — or just railroaded him because it didn’t like where he was going with passages like

there are many practical obstacles in establishing God’s rule on earth, such as the power of the state, the social system and traditions and, in general, the whole human environment. Islam uses force only to remove these obstacles so that there may not remain any wall between Islam and individual human beings.

With the benefit of hindsight, one can readily imagine that his martyr’s death did not squelch his movement, but greatened his stature to admiring eyes.

But it was hardly a direct path into an un-critiqued hall of martyrs in an undifferentiated “radical Islam”. While Qutb had his own influence in Egypt, Cairo has managed to keep the lid on the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutbism, however, was exported to Saudi Arabia — which intentionally imported it for various practical and geopolitical reasons — where it flourished, often in a fractious relationship with official Saudi Wahhabism.

One of Qutb’s students was the uncle of Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the hanged intellectual greatly influenced Zawahiri’s own path into radicalism and to al-Qaeda. Since September 11, of course, the path Qutb himself followed has become of much more pressing interest to the West as well as within the Muslim world.

Some noteworthy works by Sayyid Qutb

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Artists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Egypt,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,Intellectuals,Martyrs,Notable Participants,Popular Culture,Power,Religious Figures,Revolutionaries,Torture,Treason,Wrongful Executions

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1966: Christiaan Soumokil, South Moluccan President

7 comments April 12th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1966, an Indonesian firing squad on the island of Obira (or Obi) shot Chris Soumokil (the link is to his Dutch wikipedia page) for having styled himself the president of the Republic of the South Moluccas.

Soumokil’s fate underscores the many contradictory eddies of nationalism in the post-colonial age, and especially in that “imagined community” par excellence, the scattered archipelago of Indonesia.

Here is the background in outline, from a 2005 anti-terrorism text whose interest in the topic will soon become apparent:

The disintegration of the Dutch East Indies and the rapid dissolution of the federative state was anxiously watched in the Moluccas. … [Moluccans] were a privileged group and had favourable career opportunities … [they] were deeply concerned when Sukarno first proclaimed independence in 1945; indeed, many seemingly chose the side of the Dutch government and hoped for a return to colonial times, because they feared that a Java-dominated Indonesian state would significantly worsen their position. …

When Sukarno, in the spring of 1950, dissolved the state of East Indonesia, of which the Moluccas were a province, a group of Moluccans immediately responded by proclaiming and independent Republic of the South Moluccas (Republik Maluku Selatan) on 24 April. This, of course, was unacceptable for Sukarno. In November 1950, the Indonesian army occupied the island of Ambon, the cultural and political centre of the Moluccas. The RMS government and its sympathizers fled to the island of Ceram, where it started a guerrilla war against the Indonesian government. In the early 1960s it became clear that this struggle was utterly hopeless. In 1962, The Netherlands transferred New Guinea to the Republic of Indonesia, thereby depriving the RMS guerrillas of the safe haven where it [sic] had prepared its actions and found refuge.

Soumokil was captured in December 1962 and imprisoned; he was executed* just a month after the Indonesian government was seized by Suharto, on a programme of putting disorder to the sword.

Although politically moribund, the South Moluccan struggle to which Soumokil is a martyr is far from forgotten. And this is where the story of nationalism takes an unexpected turn.

Moluccan refugees in the Netherlands — a “temporarily” displaced population that became permanent, comprised largely out of ferociously anti-Indonesian former soldiers** among whom the RMS government-in-exile still maintains itself today — carried the memory of this struggle forward, far more so than it persisted in the Moluccas themselves.

For this Moluccan diaspora, already subject to all the strains of migration, the affair was a betrayal by their host country, which had failed to repay their ancestors’ loyalty to Holland during the colonial period by backing their people’s aspirations for independence — and had done this even while placing another colony, Suriname, on precisely the sort of stewardship-to-independence track the RMS had in mind for itself.

Soumokil’s execution (and his widow’s subsequent release to the Netherlands) helped (the link is Dutch) radicalize the next generation of Dutch Moluccans to the extent of carrying out some spectacular terrorist actions.

Though there haven’t been any bombs lately, there remains to this day enough currency in this cause to recommend it in the identity formation of the YouTube generation.

* An account of Soumokil’s last hours given by Soumokil’s widow posted here gives the particulars thus:

On April 11, 1966, Mrs. Soumokil and her son Tommie were given permission to pay a last visit to Mr. Dr. Soumokil from 08.00 AM to 11.30 AM to say good-bye to each other.

On April 12, 1966, at 01.00 AM Mr. Dr. Soumokil had been taken by the Indonesian Military from the condemned cell and transferred by motorboat to the island Obi in the archipelago Pulau Seribu … On April 12, 1966, one minute before 07.00am, Mr. Dr. Soumokil gave his last breath. He had been shot by the Indonesian firing-squad.

** Also generally Christian, vis-a-vis the predominantly Muslim Indonesia.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Heads of State,History,Indonesia,Martyrs,Netherlands,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Power,Separatists,Shot,Treason

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Calendar

October 2019
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Archives

Categories

Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!