An Algerian court on Thursday (Nov. 24) sentenced 49 people to death over the lynching of Djamel Ben Ismail, a man falsely accused of starting deadly forest fires in August last year.
The North African nation has, however, maintained a moratorium on carrying out death sentences since the last executions in 1993. Which means that the 49 people will likely serve life in prison instead.
The Dar El Beida court “sentenced” 49 accused over (Ben Ismail’s) murder and the “mutilation of his body,” state news agency APS reported.
The court also handed 28 other defendants jail terms of two years to a decade without parole.
Onlookers had beaten 38-year-old Djamel Ben Ismail to death after he turned himself in at a police station in the Tizi Ouzou region.
He had gone there upon hearing that he was suspected of arson, at the height of blazes which killed at least 90 people nationwide.
It later emerged that Ben Ismail had headed to the region as a volunteer to help put out the fires.
Videos posted online at the time showed a crowd surrounding a police van and beating a man inside it, then dragging him out and setting him on fire, with some taking selfies.
The shocking images were widely shared and sparked outrage in Algeria.
The victim’s father, Noureddine Ben Ismail, was widely praised for calling for calm and “brotherhood” among Algerians despite his son’s murder.
Last year’s fires were spurred by a blistering heatwave, but Algerian authorities also blamed arsonists for the outbreaks.
They also blamed the independence movement of the Berber-majority region of Kabylie that extends along the Mediterranean coast east of Algiers.