2012: Ajmal Kasab, 26/11 Mumbai terrorist

November 21st, 2012 Headsman

At 7:30 this morning at Yerwada jail in Pune, Maharashtra, the sole surviving author of 21st century India’s most notorious terrorist plot was put to death.

Ajmal Kasab was captured alive after the deadly November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. The “26/11″ date will live quite a while in infamy on the subcontinent … as will the chilling CCTV images of the armed and armored Kasab prowling the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Kasab and his partner in the rail station attack slew more than 50 people that evening, and another dozen-plus policemen in running gun battles as they fled the scene.

This was only one of a multitude of Mumbai targets hit in an audacious attack on that 26/11 by a ten-man team of Lashkar-e-Taiba* Islamic militants, trained in Pakistan. They had sailed in from Karachi (murdering the crew of a small fishing boat they hijacked) just for the occasion.

Kasab’s confederates elsewhere in town achieved a similar body count hitting a pair of five-star hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi Trident, each of which turned into a multi-day hostage standoff only resolved by a bloody to-the-death shootout with paramilitaries.

Attacks on a cafe and a Jewish center, as well as several timed bombs, also took place. In all, some 166 people — plus nine of the ten terrorists responsible — died, with hundreds more wounded and a nation of more than a billion shaken and angry. It’s one of those cases that make people say, “if ever there was a death penalty case …” Kasab’s speedy dispatch has been a hot political topic since he was first handed a death sentence on May 6, 2010, and the whole affair has not done any favors for the ever-touchy India-Pakistan relationship.

The (usually) sluggish India death penalty process requires that cases cleared by the judiciary receive executive clemency consideration — a stage of the process that often takes years. Recent presidents have tended to stand on only considering such applications in the order they are submitted, and then either granting those clemencies after ponderous review, or scarcely prioritizing any review at all, with further judicial interventions and a shrinking pool of trained hangmen also gumming up the works.

It’s been a recipe for virtual death penalty abolition: the last hanging prior to Kasab’s was in 2004, India’s only other execution this century. This is in a country with one-sixth of the world’s population.

Pranab Mukherjee, India’s new president, took office with a number of presidential clemency applications still pending, some dating back to the late Nineties. While there’s no guarantee that he’ll break with the glacial pattern established by his predecessors when it comes to backlogged everyday criminals, Mukherjee advanced this exceptional petition right to the front of the line and turned it down flat even as Kasab was secretly transferred from his unusual egg-shaped bombproof Mumbai cell to the hanging facility at Yerwada.

“His execution,” said Maharashta Home Minister R.R. Patil, “is a tribute to the victims.”

* Lashkar-e-Taiba also masterminded a 2001 massacre at the Indian Parliament, which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,India,Murder,Pakistan,Ripped from the Headlines,Terrorists

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2000: An adulteress, by stoning

Add comment May 2nd, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 2000, according to the New York Times,

Afghanistan’s hard-line Taliban religious rulers stoned a mother of seven to death in northern Afghanistan today after she was found guilty of committing adultery, the Taliban radio said.

The last execution of a woman in Taliban territory was in November, when a woman was shot three times by a Taliban soldier after she was found guilty of killing her abusive husband with an ax.

The stoning today was carried out at a sports stadium in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan before several thousand spectators.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Afghanistan,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Gruesome Methods,History,Public Executions,Sex,Stoned,Women

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1985: Stephen Morin, serial killer convert

43 comments March 13th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1985, Texas executed serial killer Stephen Morin for murdering and robbing Carrie Marie Scott in 1981 — one of at least three, and up to thirty, of his victims, most of whom were (unlike Scott) abducted for rape and kindred brutalizing.

Just the sixth person executed in Texas under its modern death penalty regime, Morin was an IV drug addict.

Death chamber technicians required 40-plus minutes to bore through the resultant scar tissue well enough to poison Morin. He’s been a bullet point on the anti-lethal injection brief ever since. (Oddly, Morin’s execution is not on this list of recent botches.)

But Morin’s most prominent afterlife is a very different object lesson: not medical ethics, but spiritual warfare.

It seems the last woman he kidnapped, Margy Mayfield, survived the encounter by converting the desperate fugitive to evangelical Christianity; this story is still stocked and sold by Focus on the Family. This is Mayfield’s own account of their meeting.

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To judge by his last statement, Morin took his conversion to the gurney.

But others who knew Morin better in life (and, creepily, helped him soundproof his murder-mobile) … are a bit more skeptical about him.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Rape,Religious Figures,Serial Killers,Texas,Theft,USA

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1980: Islamic extremists for the Grand Mosque seizure

15 comments January 9th, 2009 Headsman

At dawn this date in 1980, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded over 60 Islamic extremists who had seized Mecca’s holy Al-Masjid al-Haram the preceding November — one of the formative and strangely forgotten events in the birth of radical Islam.

Saudi Arabia’s uneven but unmistakable modernization generated friction extending to the royal family itself.

On November 20, 1979, with 100,000-plus pilgrims bustling in Islam’s holiest shrine on the hajj, a few hundred multinational messianic militants took it over with a cache of smuggled firearms.

For two embarrassing weeks, the Saudi government struggled to respond, bumbling a couple of military operations and delicately negotiating the ecclesiastical permission it would require to commit violence within the Grand Mosque. (Strict Moslim prohibitions against same had left the kingdom’s unarmed guards essentially defenseless against the initial takeover.)

In exchange for that fatwa, the House of Saud struck a Faustian bargain: agreeing to roll back secularization and impose strict Islamic law.

The balance of military materiel, of course, would prove to be no contest at all; Riyadh had troops, heavy armament, and now, permission to use them (and to damage the mosque … which they did). Most of the Mahdists were slain in the decisive assault; the survivors* (except for a few who were underage) were publicly beheaded in various cities around Saudi Arabia on this date, including the operation’s leader, Juhayman al-Otaibi.

But their deed — second-tier news at the time in a United States distracted by the Iranian Revolution — would have dramatic long-term repurcussions. Though intimations of deeper bin Laden family involvement** seem sketchy, it certainly appears to have inspired the 22-year-old Osama bin Laden; he soon made his way to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, a war that began in earnest just days after the end of the siege and to whose prosecution Saudi Arabia and the west would gratefully direct Islamist energies.

Meanwhile, the Saudi government’s pact with the clergy that gained it permission to assail the Grand Mosque saw it subsequently bankroll Wahhabi religious instruction in Saudi Arabia and beyond … arguably the hand that rocked the cradle of present-day Islamic radical movements like al-Qaeda.

Much of what is latterly recalled about this affair by Anglophones comes courtesy of journalist Yaroslav Trofimov’s recent book The Siege of Mecca: The 1979 Uprising at Islam’s Holiest Shrine. (Review | Another | Book home page).

In this clip, the author discusses the legacy of the siege with Fareed Zakaria.

* The Saudi government put out the figure of 63 executions. Some sources now report 67.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,God,History,Known But To God,Mass Executions,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Saudi Arabia,Terrorists

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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

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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

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