Algeria court sentences dozens to death for lynching forest fires | News

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49 people were sentenced to death for the lynching of a man falsely accused of starting arson last year.

An Algerian court has sentenced 49 people to death for the lynching of a man falsely accused of starting deadly forest fires under one prolonged heat wave last year, state media reported.

However, the North African country has maintained a moratorium on executions since the last executions in 1993, meaning sentences are likely to be reduced to life imprisonment.

The court found that locals in Algeria’s Tizi Ouzou district had killed 38-year-old Djamel Ben Ismail after he was accused of starting fires that broke out last August and killed at least 90 people in northern Algeria.

It later emerged that Ismail, an artist from Miliana (230 kilometers or 140 miles further west), had actually gone to the region as a volunteer to help put out the fires.

Algeria, Africa’s largest country, was one of several Mediterranean nations faced devastating wildfires last year.

The court in Dar el-Beida, east of the capital Algiers, “sentenced 49 people to execution on Thursday for [Ben Ismail’s] murder and mutilation of his corpse”, the official state news agency, APS, reported.

The court gave 28 other defendants prison terms of two years to a decade without parole, APS said.

Videos posted online after the lynching showed a crowd surrounding a police van and beating a man inside, then dragging him out and setting him on fire, some taking selfies.

The shocking images were widely shared and sparked outrage in Algeria.

The victim’s father, Noureddine Ben Ismail, was praised for calling for calm and “brotherhood” among Algerians despite his son’s murder.

The fires were fueled by a blistering heat wave, but authorities also blamed “criminals” for the outbreaks.

The authorities also charged the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK), which Algiers classifies as a “terrorist organization”. MAK, an autonomy movement for the mostly Amazigh-speaking Kabylie region in northern Algeria, denied the accusations.

Although much of Algeria is desert, the north has more than four million hectares (10 million acres) of forest and suffers devastating fires every summer.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that human-induced global warming will lead to higher temperatures and more extreme weather events around the world.

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