Fires in Algeria: 36 suspects arrested for the lynching of an innocent

The Algerian police announced, Sunday, August 15, the arrest of 36 people suspected of having participated in the lynching and the burning by fire of a man by a crowd wrongly accusing him of pyromania in Kabylia (north- east of the country), in the grip of deadly fires. The case shocked and moved the whole country after videos were posted on social media showing a mob beating to death a man who was actually helping to put out the flames, as the fires raging in Algeria claimed more than 90 lives and disappeared in less than a week. The victim, Djamel Bensmaïl, 38, was “returned to the police of itself” after hearing that she was suspected of having set fire to the forest, said the director of the judicial police, Mohamed Chakour, during a press conference.

Images relayed online show the crowd surrounding the police van in Larbaa Nath Irathen, in Tizi Ouzou prefecture, badly affected by the fires, and extricating the victim from the vehicle after hitting him. The man was then beaten and burned as young people took selfies in front of the corpse. Among the 36 suspects arrested, the man “who stabbed the victim” was arrested while he “was trying to flee to Morocco”, Mohamed Chakour added, stressing that the investigation was still ongoing. The images of the lynching were widely distributed and commented on, in particular via the hashtag #JusticePourDjamelBenIsmail. During the police press conference, an image of a person attempting to behead the charred corpse was also shown.

That “constitutes an additional trauma for the family and for the Algerian people already shocked by this tragedy”, said the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights in a press release, reiterating its request “of justice and of truth” regarding this “abject murder”.

The father of the victim, Noureddine Bensmaïl, admirably dignified, was hailed as a national hero after calling for calm and brotherhood among Algerians. “His gesture, which is to be included in the world pantheon of the founding acts of human nobility, tolerance, righteousness, few men have been or will be able to produce”, praised journalist and writer Mohamed Badaoui on his Facebook page.

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