An Algerian court on Thursday sentenced 49 people to death for the 2021 lynching in Kabylia of a man wrongly accused of arson, but those sentences are expected to be commuted to life in prison due to a moratorium on executions, the media reported. official agency. The defendants were found guilty of the lynching of Djamel Bensmaïl, who had volunteered in the village of Larbaa Nath Irathen, in the Tizi Ouzou prefecture (north-east), to help put out the forest fires which had caused 90 dead in less than a week in August 2021.
A first number of 48 convictions mentioned
The media had initially reported 48 death sentences, but according to the official APS agency it is 49. Although the death penalty is provided for in the penal code in Algeria, it is not no longer applied under a moratorium in force since 1993. The defendants, who appeared before the court of Dar El Beida, in the eastern suburbs of Algiers, were prosecuted in particular for “terrorist and subversive acts against the State and the national unity” and “intentional homicide with premeditation”, according to the prosecution.
28 other defendants prosecuted in this case were sentenced to terms ranging from two to ten years in prison and 17 others were acquitted. After hearing that he was suspected of having started the fire in the forest, Djamel Bensmaïl, who was 38 years old, had surrendered to the police. Images relayed by social networks had shown the crowd surrounding the police van and extricating the man from the vehicle after hitting him. Bensmaïl was then beaten and then burned alive while young people took selfies in front of the corpse.
“The scenes (…) are shocking”, affirmed the LADDH
At the time of the events, which had raised a wave of indignation throughout the country, the images of the lynching which had gone viral were commented on in particular via the hashtag #JusticePourDjamelBenIsmail. Amnesty International had called on the authorities to “send a clear message that this violence will not be tolerated”. The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) had judged for its part that “the scenes of the lynching and the immolation of the alleged arsonist, when it was a young artist who had come to lend a hand to the victims are shocking.”
The victim’s father, Noureddine Bensmaïl, admirably dignified, had been hailed as a national hero after calling for calm and brotherhood among Algerians. Excerpts from videos posted by the defendants on social media, showing details of the crime, were shown during the trial which opened on Tuesday. These videos show the lynching of Djamel Bensmaïl, burned alive and stripped of his personal items, including his cell phone.