Home » 49 people sentenced to death for mob killing in Algeria

49 people sentenced to death for mob killing in Algeria

by Mahmmod Shar

The murder in 2021 came after a man was falsely accused of lighting deadly wildfires that he had come to help fight

The Guardian

An Algerian court has sentenced 49 people to death for the brutal mob killing of a painter who was suspected of starting devastating wildfires – but had actually come to help fight them, according to defence lawyers and the state news agency.

The killing in 2021 in the Kabyle region of north-east Algeria shocked the country after graphic images of it were shared on social media. It came soon after wildfires in the mountainous Berber region that killed about 90 people, including soldiers trying to tame the flames.

The mammoth, high-security trial over artist Djamel Ben Ismail’s killing involved more than 100 suspects, many of whom were found guilty of some role in his death.

Those given the death penalty on Thursday are likely to face life in prison instead, because Algeria has had a moratorium on executions for decades. Thirty-eight others were given sentences of between two and 12 years in prison, said lawyer Hakim Saheb, a member of a collective of volunteer defence lawyers at the trial in the Algiers’ suburb of Dra El Beida.

Ben Ismail tweeted that he would travel to the Kabyle region, 320 kilometers from his home, to “give a hand to our friends” battling the fires, as they raged in August 2021.

Some locals in the severely affected village of Larbaa Nath Irathen accused him of setting the fires, presumably because he was not a native.

Ben Ismail, 38, was killed in front of a police station on the town’s main square. He was allegedly attacked after being dragged from the station where he was being guarded, according to the police. Three women and a man who had stabbed the victim’s lifeless body before being burned were among those who were on trial.

Join our U.S Main News community and be the first to hear the news!

According to the police, online photos helped them identify suspects. His heartbroken family wondered aloud why the people filming didn’t try to save him instead.

Politics also played a role in the trial. According to Saheb, five people were found guilty in absentia of participating in the murder and of being a part of the MAK, a banned Kabyle separatist movement. They included Ferhat M’henni, the movement’s French-based leader. Authorities in Algeria claimed that MAK was behind the fires.

Defense attorneys claimed that confessions were coerced through torture and described the trial as a political charade intended to defame the Kabyle people. The area was the final stronghold of the “hirak” pro-democracy protest movement, which in 2019 helped topple long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

For attempting to continue the hirak movement, whose marches the army-backed government of Algeria has outlawed, hundreds of Algerian citizens have been imprisoned.

Leave a Comment

What You Need to Know

Main News is an online news outlet that provides readers with up-to-date news stories from around the world.