Algeria: 49 people sentenced to death for lynching man wrongly suspected of starting forest fires

Francis Akhalbey November 25, 2022
Djamel Ben Ismail was lynched by a mob last year -- Photo Credit: Florence Dixon

Forty-nine people have been sentenced to death by an Algerian court over the 2021 lynching of a man who was falsely accused of starting forest fires, the North African nation’s state news agency announced, per BBC

The victim, identified as Djamel Ben Ismail, was lynched by a mob in Kabylie after he went to the region to help contain the fires. But a current moratorium on executions could see the death sentences possibly replaced with life in prison.

The 2021 forest fires were said to be the most devastating in Algeria’s history. Ninety people were killed as a result. And in the wake of the fires, Ben Ismail took to Twitter to share that he going to embark on a 320km (200 miles) journey to Kabylie to “give a hand to our friends” working to contain the disaster. Kabylie suffered the most from the fires.

But not too long after Ben Ismail arrived, residents alleged he had personally started the fires. Videos of the victim being subsequently tortured and burned by a mob were shared on social media on August 11. His killing was widely condemned after the videos were shared.

And following the circulation of the videos, the victim’s brother sent an appeal asking for the footage to be deleted as their mother was unaware of the circumstances surrounding her son’s death. The victim’s father, Noureddine Ben Ismail, also said his son’s death had left him “devastated”. 

“My son left to help his brothers from Kabylie, a region he loves. They burned him alive,” he said.

But despite his son’s killing, Noureddine Ben Ismail advocated for calm and “brotherhood”, AFP reported. Algerians praised his reaction. 

The 2021 fires started as the North African nation was experiencing dry conditions and extremely high temperatures. Algerian authorities, however, alleged “criminals” were also intentionally starting some of the fires.

And besides the death sentences, 28 other people were reportedly handed between two and 10 year-prison sentences for their involvement in the lynching.

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