Arrested a couple of months previous protesting against the government of Muammar Qaddafi, Al-Shuwehdy was horribly exhibited bound and kneeling at the center of a Benghazi basketball stadium packed with students surprised to discover they were about to witness a public execution. There he vainly pled for mercy while Qaddafi loyalists chanted for his death — during Ramadan, no less. It remains one of the most viscerally memorable atrocities of the colonel’s 42-year reign.
As the prey strangled slowly on his noose, a monstrously opportunistic university student named Huda Ben Amer vaulted herself to instant national fame or infamy by rushing out of the crowd and pulling on Al-Shuwehdy’s legs to kill him. “Huda Al-Shannaga” — “Huda the Executioner” — earned the eye of the dictator who was himself watching the broadcast, and was quickly elevated into powerful posts in the Libyan government. She was mayor of Benghazi until the 2011 civil war.
The executions — Guatemala’s first juridical shootings since 1983, although civil war death squads had ravaged the country in the meanwhile — were filmed by the press and televised, and the tape told an troubling tale: both men survived the initial volley and after paunchy doctors hastily conferred by the gasping doomed men, were icily finished off by the squad commander’s pistol.
Warning: Mature Content. This is a snuff film. A slightly longer cut of the same reel can be found here.
Thanks to this ghastly debacle, Guatemala changed its execution method to lethal injection — an application of which was also televised in 2000.
On this date in 2001, an infamous crime lord and 13 members of his gang were put to death in two Hunan Province cities.
Suave serial bank robber Zhang Jun had a reported 28 deaths on his conscience, including such underworld classics as forcing a lover to execute someone in order to prove her loyalty, in a years-long spree of robbery and mayhem. He was a major catch early in China’s execution-rich “strike hard” crime crackdown.
Despite-slash-because of the body trail, the cool Zhang — who appeared in court dressed modishly and flaunting such indifference to death that he disdained to defend himself — attracted a strain of fandom for his “gangland chic”.
He’s kind of like the gangsters in the movies, really likable.
The authorities, and his many victims, liked him less.
A still shot from the broadcast of Zhang Jun’s trial.
Zhang Jun’s trial was notable for its ripples in other media as well. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that several writers and editors were demoted or fired after publishing a story in Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend) exploring the gang’s roots in poverty and inequality … a take deemed inimical to the dialectical historical march of the Peoples’ Republic. (See here for some of the more approved commentary angles.)
On this date in 2000, Amilcar Cetino Perez and Tomas Cerrate Hernandez were executed on live television in Guatemala for kidnapping and murdering a liquor heiress.
The televised Perez execution began at 6:05 a.m., with Hernandez (reportedly “shaking badly”) following at 7:15. Both took some minutes; Amnesty International has charged that they were botched and the prisoners suffered prolonged suffering. The macabre spectacle was replayed on Guatemalan TV throughout the day.
So daunting (or puffed-up) was the menace posed by the Los Posaco kidnapping-and-extortion gang they belonged to, the president sent his family to Canada to shield them from reprisals.
Today’s casualties were the second and third persons to die by lethal injection in Guatemala,* and remain to this date the last.
They might not retain that distinction long, however. Legislation earlier this year filled a legal gap that had caused a five-year moratorium on executions — ironically, by restoring the president’s power to pardon and commute death sentences.