Algerian court sentences forty-eight people to death for murder of singer Jamal Ben Ismail

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

Death sentences in Algeria are almost always later commuted to life in prison, with no executions carried out in the country since the 1990s when the government battled an Islamist insurgency in a civil war that killed hundreds of thousands.

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 travelled 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.

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