As many as 49 people in an Algerian village have been sentenced to death for the lynching of a man who was wrongfully accused of starting wildfires.
In August 2021, Djamel Ben Ismail travelled to the northern Kabylie region, about 200 miles from his home, to help some friends fight the flames. But the 38-year-old was accused of starting the fires because he wasn't from the area.
Local people from Larbaa Nath Irathen village dragged him into the main square and attacked him. The graphic images of his murder were shared on social media, shocking Algeria. Ben Ismail's brother urged social media users to delete the footage of the attack.
Algeria's LADDH human rights group urged for calm and for those responsible for the despicable murder to be brought to justice.
More than 100 Suspects
The police said Ben Ismail was dragged out of a police station, where he was being protected, and attacked. A high-security trial saw more than 100 suspects come up and most were found guilty of playing a part in Ben Ismail's brutal killing. Suspects were identified through the photographs and videos posted online. Three women and a man were alleged to have stabbed his inanimate body before he was burnt.
The court in Dar El Beida sentenced 49 people to execution over Ben Ismail's murder and mutilation of his body. But those facing the death sentence are likely to face life in prison because Algeria has had moratorium on executions for decades. The court sentenced 38 others to between two and twelve years in prison.
Moreover, five people were convicted in absentia for their involvement in the killing and for belonging to, or supporting a banned Kabylie separatist movement called MAK. The case took a political twist as Algerian authorities accused MAK of starting wildfires but defence lawyers called the trial a political masquerade.
The fires were caused by a blistering heatwave but authorities blamed arsonists and criminals.