Algeria sentences 49 to death over forest fire mob killing

There has been a moratorium on putting people to death in the country since 1993

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An Algerian court has sentenced 49 people to death over the mob killing of a man falsely accused of starting deadly forest fires last year, state news agency APS reported.

The North African country has had a moratorium on death sentences since its last executions were carried out in 1993, commuting them to life in prison.

The court sentenced 28 others to jail terms of two years to a decade without parole over the August 2021 killing, APS reported.

The fires in the Kabylie region killed more than 90 and destroyed thousands of hectares of land.

The lynching of Jamal Ben Ismail, 38, in the northern town of Larbaa Nath Irathen, in the Tizi Ouzou province, was filmed.

Video of the incident showed a crowd beating and burning him after he travelled to the area to help with fire relief efforts. The footage was taken down by social media sites.

After false rumours spread online suggesting he was an arsonist, Mr Ben Ismail sought police protection. But he was dragged from a police van by a mob.

Police initially arrested 61 people over the killing.

“Scenes of the lynching and torching of the suspected arsonist — a young artist who had come to help put out the fires — are shocking,” the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights said at the time.

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 spurred by a blistering heatwave, but authorities also blamed arsonists and "criminals" for the outbreaks.

Amnesty International found there were at least 1,000 people on death row in Algeria in 2021 and the group has called for the country to officially outlaw the death sentence.

Updated: November 24, 2022, 2:38 PM