An Algerian court has just handed down the sentence in the murder of the artist Djamel Ben Ismail, lynched and killed in 2021 by a group of people in the village of Larbaa Nath Irathen, in the Kabyle region, in the north-east of the country.
Djamel had been falsely accused of starting the fires which were ravaging the area and had killed 90 people; in reality he had arrived in Larbaa Nath Irathen with the intention of helping the local population with the emergency, but then things had gone differently. Rumors had begun to circulate that he was an arsonist, and mobs of people had sought and found him, dragged him across a plaza and set him on fire while other bystanders took selfies.
A hundred people had been investigated for the murder: now, the court has sentenced 49 people to death, while another 38 have been given sentences of between 2 and 12 years in prison. However, it is unlikely that death sentences will actually be enforced, given that Algeria has had a moratorium on the execution of this type of sentence since 1993.
According to Guardianthe process also had political overtones, given that in 2021 the region was the last bastion of the pro-democracy “hirak” protest movement, which had helped topple President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2019.
Five people were sentenced in absentia both for involvement in the murder and for belonging to or supporters of the “kabyle” separatist movement: among them is also the leader of the movement, Ferhat M’henni, who lives in France. According to the Algerian authorities, the separatist movement was responsible for the fires: defense lawyers have defined the trial as a political buffoonery aimed at stigmatizing the people of Kabyle.