Algeria issues death sentences over wildfire killing

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ALGIERS: An Algerian court has pronounced death sentences against 48 people convicted of murder for killing a man they accused of setting deadly wildfires in summer 2020.

The murder of Jamal Ben Ismail, a singer who said he had gone to the Kabylie region outside Algiers to help battle wildfires that blazed across Algeria in 2021, shocked the country.

The fires killed dozens of people and left towns and villages in ruins. Authorities said arsonists had started the blazes, without giving any details. After he traveled to Kabylie, Ben Ismail was seized by dozens of young men from Larbaa Nath Irathen and burned alive according to testimony and videos presented during the trial.

Judges also sentenced 37 other people to terms of between two and 10 years in prison and acquitted 17 others.

The Kabylie region, a hotspot in the 1990s insurgency, remains politically sensitive with local demands for greater representation for the local culture and language.

Although much of Algeria’s interior is desert, the north has more 4 million hectares of forest, which is hit every summer by fires.

Critics say the authorities failed to prepare for the blazes.

Algeria’s army mobilized five helicopters, while its emergency services used three water-bombing helicopters to fight the flames, with firefighting aircraft also coming to help from Europe.



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