49 sentenced to death in Algeria for lynching a volunteer

49 sentenced to death in Algeria for lynching a volunteer they mistook for an arsonist | International

Devastation caused by a forest fire, on August 18 in El Kala (eastern Algeria).– (AFP)

A macro process against a hundred accused of the lynching of a man in Algeria has resulted in 49 death sentences for beating and burning alive Yamel Ben Ismail, a 38-year-old musician who had volunteered to put out forest fires. that devastated the Kabylia region, east of Algiers, in 2021, causing 90 deaths. Another 37 defendants have been sentenced to between two and 10 years in prison, the state news agency APS reported on Thursday. Dozens of young people attacked Ben Ismail when he was guarded by the police in the town of Larbaa Nath Irathen. The artist had turned himself in to the agents after being mistaken for an arsonist simply because he was a stranger.

Predictably, the death sentences handed down will not be carried out and will be commuted to life imprisonment. Algeria has maintained a moratorium on executions for nearly three decades, following a bloody civil war between the army and armed Islamist groups that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

The singer Ben Ismail had traveled to Kabylia, a Berber region with strong nationalist sentiments, from the Arab city of Miliana, 120 kilometers southwest of the Algerian capital, after numerous forest fires broke out in August 2021. When he realized that he was considered suspected of having caused some of the fires turned himself in at Larbaa Nath Irathen police station.

A crowd then went to the police center and forcibly removed him from the van in which he was, according to images recorded with mobile phones and disseminated through social networks. He was then beaten by the mob and stripped of his personal belongings, including his mobile, before being burned alive. A video showed two women stabbing his lifeless body before he went up in flames.

The images of the events, including the selfies that some defendants had taken next to the victim’s body, were reproduced at trial as incriminating evidence. The court of Dar el Beida (on the outskirts of Algiers) based its sentence on the charges of “voluntary premeditated homicide” and “terrorist and subversive acts against the State and national unity”.

Five of those sentenced to death have been tried in absentia, after having fled the country, for their involvement in the death of Ben Ismail and for their membership of the Berber separatist movement Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylia (MAK), according to legal sources cited. by Associated Press. Among them is Ferhat Mehenni, leader of the MAK exiled in France, whom the Algerian authorities accuse of having given the order to set the fires with the alleged collaboration of Morocco. Defense lawyers consulted by the same news agency denounced that confessions of guilt by the defendants were obtained under torture.

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Kabylia was the scene from 2019 of large protest marches within the Algerian popular movement of Hirak, which deposed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika when he tried to perpetuate himself in office after two decades in power. This mountainous region once again suffered forest fires last summer that caused 37 deaths. In 2021, Algeria lacked seaplanes to fight the flames in inaccessible forested areas, despite being one of the Mediterranean countries most exposed to fire in summer.

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