10 executions that defined the 2000s

23 comments December 14th, 2009 Headsman

With the turn of the tide to the 2010s, we bid farewell to a decade that never did get a consensus moniker.

Like every decade known to the historian’s annals, however, the Aughties found plenty of work for the world’s hangmen.

As we prepare to flip over the calendar, Executed Today remembers ten executions that most palpably captured the decade’s Zeitgeist.

10. Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 2004

Although the world’s second-most populous country retains the death penalty and has dozens of death row denizens, an entire generation of Indians has come of age having never known an actual execution … never, except for the 2004 hanging of Dhananjoy Chatterjee (Update: Not any more). That made this otherwise ordinary criminal a worldwide controversy, and his archaic colonial-era hangman a temporary celebrity.

9. Aileen Wuornos, 2002

Two years after the magnetic prostitute/serial killer was given a lethal injection in Florida, Charlize Theron won an Oscar for portraying her in Monster.

8. Wang Binyu, 2005

This migrant laborer was just grist for the mill of China’s helter-skelter industrialization in the neoliberal economic machine … until, in a fury over wages stolen by his employer, he slew a foreman. Chinese media that picked up his story inadvertently made him an emblematic figure for the untold millions of his countrymen and -women who could sympathize with his sentiment: “I want to die. When I am dead, nobody can exploit me anymore. Right?” Internet buzz about Wang had to be forcibly squelched.

7. Timothy McVeigh, 2001

The Gulf War veteran was the face of terrorism in the U.S. from the time of his arrest for the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building, until three months after his June 11, 2001, execution.

6. Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, 2005

Heart-rending photos of these teenagers hanging in Iran were a worldwide Internet sensation and made them an instant symbol of Iranian anti-gay persecution.

5. Mamoru Takuma, 2004

“I want others to know the unreasonableness that high-achieving children could be killed at any time,” said the author of perhaps the most infamous crime spree in modern Japanese history. The usually glacial Japanese capital system got the former janitor into a noose barely three years after he’d knifed eight children to death in the “Osaka school massacre”.

4. Cameron Todd Willingham, 2004

Something tells us that the ornery Texan — he took his leave of the world throwing an obscene gesture at his former wife from his execution gurney — would have been but pleasantly surprised to discover himself a major posthumous headache for Gov. Rick Perry (who signed his death warrant) and like-minded partisans of pseudoscience arson convictions. The sad part is that the evidence of Willingham’s potential innocence in the recent bombshell New Yorker article was basically all available at the time of his execution.

Rediscovery (with touching, or feigned, naivete) of the timeless problematic of executing innocents has characterized the 2000s not only in the U.S. but around the world.

3. The Bali Bombers, 2008

These grinning Islamic militants orchestrated the 2002 coordinated triple bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202, most of them western tourists. (88 were Australians, the predominant nationality affected, as against only 38 Indonesians.) Then they spent six years gleefully milking their notoriety.

2. Zheng Xiaoyu, 2007

Zheng Xiaoyu hears his death sentence.

While proletarians like Wang Binyu died for pennies and many like Fu Xinrong died for their organs, the more privileged in China’s gangster capitalism played for higher stakes. For a decade the state’s Food and Drugs Minister, Zheng Xiaoyu took payola to rubber-stamp products that turned out to be dangerous to man and beast. His high-profile execution was Beijing’s response to a wave of concern about the safety of Chinese exports abroad … and a pledge, one year in advance of the 2008 Olympics, of China’s readiness for the world stage.

Zheng aside, elites behaving as gangsters (and vice versa) have been a recurring phenomenon on China’s execution grounds of late.

1. Saddam Hussein, 2006

Undoubtedly the decade’s signature execution, the 2006 hanging by America’s Iraqi puppet government of America’s longtime foreign policy bete noir was purchased for trillions that would have been better spent just buying the guy off … especially since cell phone video soon to circle the globe revealed the old rattlesnake taking command of a distinctly undignified scene.


Honorable Mentions

Some other notable executions to remember the 2000s by:

  • Creepy Malaysian pop singer Mona Fandey
  • Anti-abortion terrorist/martyr Paul Hill
  • Dmitry Chikunov, whose secret execution launched his mother on the crusade that would abolish Uzbekistan’s death penalty
  • Draconian anti-drug laws ensnaring foreign drug mules, like Australian national Nguyen Van Van and Nigerian footballer Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi in Singapore, and mentally ill Briton Akmal Shaikh in China
  • Vietnamese crime lord Nam Cam
  • Han Bok-nam, whose public shooting in North Korea was filmed and smuggled out of the country
  • The filmed stoning of Du’a Khalil Aswad in Iraq
  • Many people, such as Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, taken hostage in Iraq and demonstratively “executed”

On this day..

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2006: Three Sulawesi Christians

Add comment September 22nd, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2006, Catholics Fabianus Tibo, Marianus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva were shot in the Central Sulawesi capital of Palu for inciting murderous anti-Muslim riots six years before.

The riots in question occurred in Poso, a hotspot of Christian-Muslim conflict that over 1,000 lives from 1999-2001. According to the Jakarta Post (September 25, 2006),

Tibo, Marinus and Dominggus were convicted of leading a Christian militia that carried out a series of attacks in May 2000 in Sulawesi, including a machete and gun assault on an Islamic school where dozens of men were seeking shelter.

Though a 2001 treaty stabilized the situation, tension remained, occasionally flaring into violence.

The 2001 death sentences of Christian activists also remained, a legacy of the open conflict. Small wonder that their execution triggered further unrest, not only in Poso but in Silva’s hometown in predominantly-Christian West Timor. And aftershocks for months to come — the murder a month later of a prominent Christian cleric, for instance — quelled by security forces sweetened with a bit of goodwill rebuilding.

Jakarta ignored international as well as domestic clemency appeals in carrying out the executions, including from the European Union and the the Vatican. The latter’s argument may have been somewhat compromised under the circumstances by Pope Benedict XVI’s impolitic citation just days before of a 14th-century Muslim-bashing text.

Apart from the humanitarian objections, others more specific to the case were raised in vain: that the trio executed had not been witnessed killing anyone personally, and that the sentences were disproportionate to that received by anyone else convicted in that era’s violence.

But such contentions were easily outweighed by the simultaneous progress of the Bali Bombers case, with the imminent likelihood of a triple-execution of Muslim militants … and the prospect of political fallout if only one faith’s martyrs were let off the hook.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Indonesia,Religious Figures,Rioting,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot

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2008: The Bali Bombers

2 comments November 9th, 2008 Headsman

On this date — mere hours ago as of this writing — three of the most infamous terrorists in two nation’s histories were shot in a jungle clearing on Indonesia’s Nusa Kambangan Island.

“At around 00:15 am (1715 GMT Saturday) the three convicted men on death row, Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra, were executed by firing squad,” said attorney general’s office spokesman Jasman Panjaitan.

“The autopsy results show that all three are dead. The family members are now bathing the bodies.” (Source.)

The men were taken from prison and tied to wooden crosses in the Indonesian prison island’s forest, where they were shot simultaneously by three separate firing squads for the October 12, 2002 bomb attack on the island of Bali that claimed 202 lives.

Though taking place in Indonesia, the strike was aimed at westerners vacationing at a tourist hot spot. Eighty-eight Australians were slain, along with 76 other (predominantly European) foreigners. The only shred of regret the late executees ever betrayed was that the infidel body count wasn’t higher.


The mediagenic murderers display a range from insouciant to jocular in most of their photos. The ever-grinning Amrozi — in the middle — was known as the “smiling assassin.”

The three facing death today* have occupied most of the intervening six years endeavoring to transmute their criminal celebrity into the dearer coinage of martyrdom through the doubtful influence of the Philosopher’s Stone mass media.

Despite their body count, burial disturbances, and even the prospect of some follow-up strike by at-large members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a base metal the late bombers will remain. Picture the most fanatical devotee of any cause you care to conjure drawing any enduring inspiration from this juvenile twaddle.

Indonesia has appeared to sidle towards this execution, ginger at inflaming Islamic radicals; Australia, which has no death penalty itself, has been controversially mum and bombing victims and their families conflicted.

It remains to be seen whether the high-profile case has legs among militants. But its undertones of race, religion and national sovereignty are being very closely watched by one group of Australians in particular: the Bali Nine, Australian nationals in Indonesian custody for drug smuggling.

Three of the nine are currently on death row, reportedly “somber” at this day’s shootings — no doubt aware that they could be next.

Update: True to the publicity-savvy rep, Imam Samudra reportedly knocked out a nasheed or nasyid just before his execution that’s now a hot ringtone download.

[audio:Imam_Samudra.mp3]

* A fourth man was also death-sentenced, but that sentence was vacated on appeal.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Australia,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,God,History,Indonesia,Infamous,Martyrs,Murder,Popular Culture,Religious Figures,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Terrorists

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