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Algeria sentences 49 to death for killing mob in wildfires

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ALGIERS, Algeria – An Algerian court Thursday sentenced 49 to death for the brutal mob killing of a painter suspected of sparking devastating wildfires but who actually came to help fight them. declared.

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Last year, a murder in the Kabiriye region of northeastern Algeria shocked the country, especially after graphic images were shared on social media. The mountainous Berber region was rocked by wildfires, killing about 90 people, including soldiers who tried to put out the flames.

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The huge, high-security trial surrounding the murder of artist Jamel Ben Ismail involved more than 100 suspects, most of whom were convicted of playing some role in his death.

A moratorium on executions has been in place in Algeria for decades, so those sentenced to death are likely to face life imprisonment instead. At the trial, lawyer Hakim Saheb, a member of the volunteer defense team, said 38 others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to 12 years.

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When wildfires raged in August 2021, Ben Ismail tweeted that he would “reach out to our friends” as he headed to the Kabli region, 320 kilometers (200 miles) from his home, to fight the fires.

When he arrived at the fire-stricken Larvar Nath Ilasen village, some locals accused him of being an arsonist.

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Ben Ismail, 38, was killed outside the police station in the town’s central square. Police say he was dragged out of the station where he was guarded and attacked. Among those tried were three of her women and one of her men who had knifed the inanimate bodies of their victims before being burned.

Police said photos posted online helped identify the suspect. His distraught family wondered why those shoots didn’t save him instead.

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The trial also had political implications. Saheb said five people were convicted in absentia of both being involved in the killing and of being affiliated with or supporting a banned Kabiri separatist movement called the MAK. Ferhat M’henni, the leader of the movement based in France, was among them. Algerian authorities accused the MAK of ordering the arson.

Defense attorneys said the confession was coerced through torture and said the trial was a political masquerade intended to stigmatize Kabilee. It was the last stronghold of the Hirak movement and helped to overthrow long-term president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Hundreds of Algerian citizens were imprisoned for trying to keep the Hirak movement, whose marches banned by Algeria’s military-backed government.

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Algeria sentences 49 to death for killing mob in wildfires

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