Dozens sentenced to death over lynching in Algeria

An Algerian court has sentenced 49 people to death after they were found guilty of lynching a man wrongly suspected of starting devastating forest fires last year.

The sentences are likely to be reduced to life in prison as there is a moratorium on executions.

In 2021, Algeria experienced the worst fires in the country’s history, with multiple blazes killing 90 people.The lynching victim, Djamel Ben Ismail, had gone to help fight the fires.

After the fires broke out in August last year, the 38-year-old tweeted he would travel over 320km (200 miles) from his home to “give a hand to our friends” fighting the blazes in the Kabylie region, east of the capital, Algiers, which was the worst-hit area. Soon after he arrived, locals falsely accused him of starting fires himself.

On August 11, graphic footage began circulating purportedly showing Ben Ismail being attacked. People tortured and burned him before taking his body to the village square.The videos caused national outrage.

The fires took place amid dry conditions and very high temperatures, but authorities also blamed “criminals” for the blazes.

The court sentenced 28 others to between two and 10 years for other offences related to the lynching, the AFP quoted the state news agency as reporting.

At least 25 Algerian soldiers and 17 civilians have been killed in wildfires to the east of the capital, Algiers, the country’s prime minister has said.

Several more soldiers were injured fighting the fires in the forested Kabylie region.Temperatures of up to 46C were forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday. Fires have caused devastation in several Mediterranean countries in recent days, including Turkey, Greece, Lebanon and Cyprus.

Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires.The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began, and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.

More than 100 fires have been reported across 17 Algerian provinces, the country’s official news agency, APS, said on Tuesday evening. –AFP/BBC

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