2009: Li Peiying, corrupt aviation kingpin

Add comment August 7th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 2009, China executed Li Peiying, the former chairman of a vast airport conglomerate that managed, among many others, Beijing Capital International Airport.

Li was convicted on corruption charges that netted £11 million in bribes and embezzled public funds from 1995 to 2003. Li’s case for leniency was that he gave it all back; the court’s case for aggravation was that Li had solicited (and not merely accepted) the bribes, an “extremely serious crime” resulting in “large economic losses.” For instance, nightclub mogul Qin Hui* was able to secure through Li $90 million in loans and guarantees

The state-owned Capital Airports Holding Co. that Li managed was reported at the time of his execution to employ 38,000 people and handle 30% of China’s air traffic.

In 2011, the successor to the corporate titancy Li was deposed from, Zhang Zhizhong, was himself convicted of wholesale corruption.** Perhaps in deference to China’s ongoing gradual de-escalation of penalties imposed for white-collar economic crimes, Zhang received only a 12-year prison sentence.

* Qin Hui shares a name with a villain in the classical story of Yue Fei. Our Qin Hui just owned the Paradise club in the Great Wall Sheraton.

** China’s aviation industry as a whole is notorious for corruption.

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2009: Abdullah Saleh Al-Kohali

Add comment March 4th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 2009, Yemen police executed Abdullah Saleh Al-Kohali for machine-gunning a mosque at Bait al-Aqari village.

Despite what one might assume, Al-Kohali wasn’t a terrorist.

No, he was after a fellow clan member named Belal Al-Kohali over an affair of honor.

“He got my sister pregnant three times,” the killer complained to the court.

He did indeed manage to kill Belal Al-Kohali during weekly prayers … along with five other people who died on the spot, and four more besides them mortally wounded who later succumbed to their injuries.

On this day..

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2009: Behnoud Shojaee, Mohammad Mostafaei client

Add comment October 11th, 2013 Headsman

At dawn this date in 2009, Iran hanged Behnoud Shojaee in Tehran’s Evan Prison for a murder committed while he was still a juvenile.

His attorney, Mohammad Mostafaei, later had to flee Iran in the face of persecution over his own activism against the death penalty, and the juvenile death penalty in particular.

Mostafaei wrote a Farsi post detailing the harrowing moments leading up to the Shojaee’s hanging, complete with the young offender kneeling in front of the parents of his victim imploring them to exercise their power to spare his life. That post, excerpted below, was translated to English by the site Persian2English.com.

The plan was to get the parents of the victim to drop the case so he would be spared from execution. We could hear the prayers of the activists from outside the prison. After a few minutes we were admitted into another salon. Behnoud was there along with a few of the prison guards. When the parents of the victim entered the room, Behnoud kneeled in front of them and begged them to not execute him. The head of convictions prepared the conviction papers. A few of the prison guards, Mr. Oliyaifard, and I went to the parents of the victim and begged them to not go through with the execution. The mother of the victim replied, “I cannot think right now. I have to put the rope around his neck.” After a few minutes we heard the Call for Prayer. Behnoud walked to another room to say his last prayers. He went to ask God for forgiveness.

After the prayer we all went to the prison grounds. My entire body was shaking and I didn’t know what would become of this boy without a mother. When Behnoud kneeled in front of the parents of the victim, he told the mother, “I don’t have a mother. Please act as a mother and tell them to not execute me.” We all went to another room. In that room there was a metal stool and a blue plastic hanging rope suspended above it. The parents of the victim entered that room. Then they brought Behnoud into that horrible room where they carried out the executions. I had never heard of sole executions in Evin prison. I thought it strange that only Behnoud was being executed that night.

Maybe this was his unfortunate fate that took him to die all alone. The people present in the room asked the parents to forgive and to stop the execution. The mother said you have to put the rope around his neck. Behnoud stood on top of the stool and they put the rope around his neck. After only a few seconds the mother and father of the victim ran toward the stool and pulled it away.

On this day..

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2009: John Muhammad, D.C. sniper

3 comments November 10th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 2009, D.C. sniper John Muhammad was executed by lethal injection in Virginia.

Muhammad — born John Allen Williams; he renamed himself after joining the Nation of Islam — authored with Lee Boyd Malvo, a juvenile collaborator under his sway, a spree of random sniper attacks around the Washington D.C. suburbs that terrified the nation’s capital in October 2002.

The two were captured together sleeping out in their sniper-mobile — a Chevy Caprice with a hole drilled in the trunk for taking concealed potshots at gas stations and mall parking lots and the like. Although arrested initially in Maryland, the U.S. Attorney General forced their case to the more aggressive death penalty jurisdiction of Virginia. (The two killed people in both states, tallying 10 dead and three wounded all told.)

From the time of his Oct. 24, 2002 arrest until the very end, Muhammad was frustratingly tight-lipped about how and why the carnage took place. Was it personal pique? Religious terrorism? Just a regular criminal racket?

In 2006 testimony, a now-contrite Lee Malvo — at one point he addressed Muhammad directly, saying “You took me into your house and you made me a monster” — outlined a plan that constituted a fearsomely nutty combination of motives: use the mayhem to extort millions of dollars, then take the money and set up a Canadian camp for 140 homeless black youth and rear them as terrorists. It’s just possible that this proposed enterprise pushed every single button in the collective American id.

(Malvo himself pled out to the murders, accepting six life sentences.)

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2009: Minurul Islam and two friends, for a dowry death

2 comments February 13th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 2009, a husband was hanged with two friends for murdering a wife who shorted him on his dowry.

The three were hanged at one minute past midnight in western Jessore jail after they failed to secure presidential pardons for the murder of Minu Ara, 18, the official, Kamrul Huda, said.

Minurul Islam and his two friends were sentenced to death in 2002 by the supreme court for killing Ara after her father failed to pay a promised dowry of 100,000 taka. [$1,450 US]

Their execution follows that of two men in southern Bangladesh in December over a similar dowry murder.

So-called “dowry deaths” — including not only outright murder but suicide driven by in-laws’ mistreatment — reportedly produces several thousand deaths per year in South Asia, including Pakistan and India.

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2009: Mosleh Zamani, because sex kills

Add comment December 17th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 2009, Mosleh Zamani was hanged in Iran for making the beast with two backs.

And you thought you’d seen sexual hangups.

Twenty-three at the time of his execution, Zamani was all of 17 years old when he committed the “crime” that earned him the rope.

That crime: abducting and raping a 24-year-old woman.

So, okay, one might say: pretty rough punishment but also pretty serious misbehavior.

Save for a few minor details. Like, that the “raped” woman was actually Zamani’s girlfriend. And that she said the sex was consensual. Apparently this testimony from the mere victim was superseded by three random village prudes willing to complain about what the licentious youth get up to these days.

Given his cruel treatment, it will not surprise that Zamani was an ethnic Kurd and that his legal representation fell somewhere between poor and nonexistent.

Persian speakers (I am not one) can take in this interview with the young man’s family.

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2009: Yang Yanming, hedge fund manager

1 comment December 8th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 2009, China executed a rogue securities trader for disappearing around $10 million.

The first person executed for securities corruption in China, Yang used his position as a trader for Galaxy Securities to embezzle some 65 million yuan for personal gain.

He never disclosed the money’s whereabouts, presumably taking the secret with him to the grave. (Or to the organ donor market.)

As gangster capitalists go, Yang could hardly be considered exemplary either by scale or by ruthlessness. His peculation undoubtedly harmed many people, but there’s no known whiff of violence about him; he was caught after attempting suicide.

But by the same token, the occasional sacrifice of such middling malefactors potentially helps discharge some of the tension generated by the structural inequality accompanying China’s new oligarchy. What to do in such a world?

“Preserve your moral integrity and don’t set too much store by business results,” Yang told a newspaper prior to his execution. You said it, brother.

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2009: Four Tibetans

Add comment October 20th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 2009, China executed four Tibetans widely considered political prisoners.

The previous year, widespread unrest over Chinese control had shaken the country, most notably riots in the capital, Lhasa that targeted Chinese persons and shops.

(There’s a BBC page preserving a good deal of the original coverage here.)

Loyak, one of those executed Oct. 20, 2009.

The two most prominent prisoners — in fact, the only two confirmed in some of the first media reports — were Lhasa residents Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak. A court spokesperson said both had been “given death penalties had committed extremely serious crimes and have to be executed to assuage the people’s anger.”

Specifically, both had been convicted of torching shops during the Lhasa riots, which arsons both led to deaths.

The other two executed, a woman named Penki (also for arson) and an unnamed man, received less comment, although they might have been executed despite having been condemned only to a “suspended” death sentence, which for China is generally no death sentence at all.

Executions in Tibet turn out to be relatively rare; these were the first known Tibetan executions since early 2003. Widely condemned abroad, this date’s events were barely or not at all reported internally by Chinese state media.

Part of the Themed Set: Illegitimate Power.

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2009: Four Iranians

Add comment March 14th, 2011 Headsman

If not for China, Iran’s hundreds of annual executions would put it in a class all its own for capital punishment.

The legions of hanged in Iran are more than this site will ever manage with the biographical care that their friends might demand for their lives: we are doomed to know only a few, and often what we “know” is little more than a name and what an authority figure has accused him of. Ever it is thus: the kings and potentates, the star-crossed lovers and epic villains, make the history books. But most of the headsman’s clients are, like he himself, obscurities.

From Iran Human Rights, March 14, 2009.

March 14: Four people were executed by hanging in the Adelabad prison of Shiraz, reported the Iranian daily newspaper Etemaad today.

According to the report the men were identified as:

  • Abolhassan (age not given), convicted of a murder in 1981
  • 26 years old man (name not given), convicted of murder
  • Young man (name and age not given), convicted of murder
  • 23 years old man (name and age at the time of committing the offence not given), convicted of raping two boys.

    According to our sources, there are several minor offenders on death row in the Adelabad prison of Shiraz.

    In 2008, at least two minor offenders were executed in the Adelabad prison of Shiraz.

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2009: Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping, for tainted milk

7 comments November 24th, 2010 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this day in 2009, Chinese citizens Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping were shot to death in connection with China’s tainted milk scandal.

The affair caused some 300,000 infants to became sick, six of them fatally. They were killed by powdered milk tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical used in plastics and fertilizer. Zhang, a dairy farmer from the province of Hebei, sold hundreds of tons of tainted milk powder in 2007 and 2008; he was the largest supplier. Geng supplied toxic milk to dairy companies.

The scandal was stupendous and made headlines all over the world. According to Time magazine, the tainted milk found its way to Taiwan, Singapore and Japan. China’s $232 million dairy export industry cratered as the European Union and a dozen nations in Asia and Africa banned Chinese milk and milk products. The farmers who depended on milk sales for their livelihood were reduced to simply pouring their surplus stock down the drain, and since nobody wanted to buy dairy cows under these conditions, some farmers just slaughtered their animals.

Top: Chinese farmers destroy tainted milk. Bottom: Zhang Yujun (left) and a supplicating Geng Jinping (right).

Nor was milk wasn’t the only export product with this problem; Wikipedia’s timeline of the scandal states melamine was subsequently discovered in Chinese eggs, egg powder, baking ammonia, chicken, crackers and animal food.

Melamine was added to the milk to fool government protein tests, which would show whether the milk had been diluted or not. (Watered-down milk had been a problem in the past; in 2004 thirteen Chinese babies died of malnutrition after being fed milk that was so watery it had almost zero nutritional value.) Melamine, like protein, is high in nitrogen, so the presence of melamine in food would cause the protein content to appear higher than it really was.

It isn’t clear whether the people who altered the milk knew — or cared — that it was poisonous. Very poisonous. Melamine is never supposed to be used in food; it causes kidney stones and in some cases complete renal failure, especially in young children. A child can take over six months to recover from exposure.

Some blame must be attached to the (suspect) Chinese food safety administration, which in May 2008 reported that over 99% of baby milk powders had been deemed safe. (In fact, one major dairy company had begun hearing complaints about its baby milk as far back as the previous December.) The Ministry of Health was informed about the sick infants in July. There are strong suspicions that the government tried to suppress the reports to avoid embarrassment; the Olympics were in Beijing that summer and the world’s eye was on China. The scandal was only made public in September, after the Games.

Twenty-one people involved in the scandal were brought to trial on various charges in December 2008, and convicted in January.

Tian Wenhua, the general manager of the Chinese dairy giant Sanlu, pleaded guilty to producing substandard goods and was sentenced to life in prison. She admitted she’d known the milk was bad for four months before she reported this fact to the authorities. Sanlu tried to keep complaining parents quiet by giving them free milk, which was also tainted. Tien was widely perceived as being the person most responsible for the scandal, and many were disappointed that she didn’t get the death sentence.

Other defendants received various prison terms. One of them was given a suspended death sentence, but only Zhang (guilty of endangering public safety) and Geng (guilty of producing and selling toxic food) were actually executed.

On this day..

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