1985: Benjamin Moloise, revolutionary poet

5 comments October 18th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1985, poet Benjamin Moloise was hanged in Pretoria for murdering a (black) policeman in apartheid South Africa.

Moloise’s controversial execution occurred in the context of violent resistance to apartheid in South Africa’s black townships and an ultimately fatal crisis for the apartheid state.

The black majority, long treated as second-class citizens by the white powers-that-be, turned to increasingly confrontational tactics aiming to break official power at the township level. Attacks on black officials and police officers who administered state authority at that level were part and parcel.

Moloise was convicted in a plot to kill such an officer in 1983. (The African National Congress claimed responsibility for the killing, and said that Moloise wasn’t involved.)

His hanging approached as the township rising grew into a mass movement that the hardline government of P.W. Botha answered mostly with force* — so, little surprise that Botha spurned both American and Soviet entreaties not to hang Moloise and little surprise that the execution further escalated racial violence.

Furious black protesters rioted in downtown Johannesburg itself, which (like much of white South Africa) had theretofore remained mostly immune to the violence gripping the townships. Here’s a French news report on Moloise’s execution and its aftermath.

All of which dovetailed with a dramatic fall in South Africa’s international position, vividly symbolized by the months-long collapse of the rand — which bled about three-quarters of its value in 1985. International outrage at the blood shed to enforce South Africa’s color line subjected it to a cascade of diplomatic and economic sanctions in the mid-1980s.

Apartheid went out with the Cold War at the end of the decade — vindicating Moloise’s poetic final message, subsequently a staple message at anti-apartheid rallies.

I am proud to be what I am …
The storm of oppression will be followed
By the rain of my blood

I am proud to give my life

My one solitary life.

* It had implemented a state of emergency that very summer. At the same time, Botha pursued tweaks around the edges of apartheid to preserve it: weeding out “petty apartheid” provocations like whites-only/coloreds-only facilities, and implementing a new constitution with a tricameral, race-based parliament.

Part of the Themed Set: Illegitimate Power.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Artists,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,Famous Last Words,Hanged,History,Martyrs,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Revolutionaries,South Africa,Terrorists

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1985: Mohammed Munir, Indonesian Communist

2 comments May 14th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1985, the onetime General Secretary of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was suddenly executed for subversion.

Not to be confused with Egyptian pop singer Mohamed Mounir.

Though the date here says 1985, Munir was actually a very late casualty of the 1960s: specifically, the murky attempted “coup” of 1965 whose authorship the army quickly ascribed to the Communists and on that doubtful basis unleashed a ferocious bloodletting in 1965-66.*

Along with the hundreds of thousands of leftists slaughtered — many in Muslim sectarian violence, as distinct from being specifically hunted down by the army — some 200,000 wound up in prison.

According to a U.S. Department of Defense publication, Low-Intensity Conflict in the Third World (pdf),

the vast majority [of those 200,000 prisoners] were gradually released and rehabilitated during the first seven to 10 years of President Suharto’s New Order. By the mid-1970s, although Western sources could not agree on the remaining number, probably no more than 30,000 people remained in custody; but their living conditions and situations were often extremely bad. In the late 1970s, responding to the Carter administration, Vatican, The Hague, and Amnesty International remonstrances, the Suharto government implemented a series of staged, publicized releases of remaining PKI prisoners. All told, between 25,000 and 30,000 were released between 1977 and the early 1980s. In the early 1980s, most western sources estimated that no more than 5,000 hard-core PKI and other radical personnel remained in custody.

As the former head of the PKI-affiliated trade union SOBSI, Munir was “radical personnel” in the eyes of the Suharto dictatorship.

He’d been condemned on subversion charges in 1973, but the government had simply left that sort of people to rot in prison. (It had been five years between Munir’s arrest and his trial in the first place; clearly, nobody in Jakarta thought him a clear and present danger.)

According to this doctoral thesis,

On 14 May 1985 he was taken from his cell, and without explanation, shot. On 19 July 1985 there were further executions of Rustomo, Gatot, Lestario and Djoko Untung — all former senior members of the PKI in East Java. It was unclear whether the government had other agendas, or if the condemned had simply come to the end of a long, tedious and inhumane process … What the imprisonments and executions did, however, was to illustrate the continued power and convenience of state violence and anti-communism.

That “convenient” anti-communism helped clamp down on internal dissension.

The official campaigns made reformist sentiment in the civil service and the pro-democracy aspirations of students synonymous with communism. The fear generated served as a warning to progressive elements within the bureaucracy not to tamper … It was, in effect, a warning to all sections of society not to challenge the relationship between the ruler and the ruled.

* With the blessing of the West, naturally.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Indonesia,Power,Shot

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1985: Stephen Morin, serial killer convert

70 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.

[audio:http://withusisgod.org/wp-content/uploads/audio/margy-mayfield.mp3]

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.

On this day..

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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1985: Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, progressive Islamic theologian

Add comment January 18th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1985 progressive Islamic theologian Mahmoud Mohamed Taha was publicly hanged at a prison in Khartoum North, Sudan.

Seventy-five years old at his death, Taha spent his youth in the nationalist movement against British control of Sudan where he emerged as the standard-bearer of the liberal/secular Republican Party.

After Sudan won independence in 1956, both Taha and his party maintained — in the face of official hostility that waxed and waned with the changing regimes — nonviolent support for political openness, national unity between Muslims and non-Muslims, and a theology pointing to reform within Islam. Specifically, Taha embraced a women’s movement and opposed the imposition of sharia, at least in the absence of a radical modernization of the Islamic religious law.

The introduction of sharia in 1983 brought matters to a head, and not only with Taha: civil war broke out — the conflict between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south only recently and imperfectly abated.

Taha and four other Republicans were tried for their intransigence in a two-hour trial under a seemingly muddled mixture of secular and religious law.

Among the hundreds of attendees of Taha’s hanging this day were his four “co-conspirators.” They were themselves under sentence of death to be carried out January 20th, unless they should recant. All four recanted. Hundreds of other Republicans were held around the country on lesser charges until they did likewise.

The next year, with a new government in place, the Sudanese Supreme Court declared the proceedings against the Republicans to have been in error.

Little of Taha’s work has been translated, but his Second Message of Islam is available in English and presents a conception of the faith so unfamiliar in the west that one reviewer mitigates his praise with the regret that “it is nonsensical to talk of reforming Islam, a religion which is doctrinally irreformable.”

Taha’s thought also has a scholarly evaluation in Quest for Divinity: A Critical Examination of the Thought of Mahmud Muhammad Taha. More information by and about Taha and the Republicans is here.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,God,Hanged,Heresy,History,Intellectuals,Not Executed,Pardons and Clemencies,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Sudan,Treason,Wrongful Executions

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