Algerian court sentences 49 people to death for forest fire lynching

An Algerian court on Thursday sentenced 49 people to death for the lynching of a man wrongly accused of starting deadly forest fires last August, state media reported.

However, the North African country has maintained a moratorium on carrying out death sentences since the last executions in 1993.

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Bystanders had beaten 38-year-old Djamel Ben Ismail to death after he handed himself in at a police station in the Tizi Ouzou region.

He had gone there after hearing he was suspected of arson, at the height of fires that killed at least 90 people across the country.

It later emerged that Ben Ismail had gone to the region as a volunteer to help put out the fires.

The Dar El Beida court on Thursday “sentenced 49 people to death for (Ben Ismail’s) murder and mutilation of his body,” APS news agency reported.

The court also sentenced 28 other defendants to prison terms of two years to a decade without parole, APS said.

Videos posted online at the time showed a crowd surrounding a police car and beating a man inside, then dragging him out and setting him on fire, with some taking selfies.

The shocking images were widely shared and sparked outrage in Algeria.

Algeria’s LADDH human rights group called for calm and for those responsible for the “despicable murder” to be brought to justice.

“These images constitute yet another trauma for the family and for the Algerian people, already shocked” by the fires, it said.

The victim’s father, Noureddine Ben Ismail, was widely praised for calling for calm and “brotherhood” among Algerians despite his son’s murder.

The fires were fueled by a blustery heat wave, but authorities also blamed arsonists and “criminals” for the outbreaks.

They also blamed the independence movement in the Berber-majority Kabylie region that stretches along the Mediterranean coast east of Algiers.


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