49 people have been sentenced to death for killing a man who allegedly started a fire last year.
An Algerian court has sentenced 49 people to death for the murder of a man accused of starting a deadly forest fire during the high season last year.
But the North African country has refused to abolish the death penalty since the last execution in 1993, meaning sentences will be reduced to life imprisonment.
A court found that people from the Tizi Ouzou community in Algeria beat 38-year-old Djamel Ben Ismail to death after accusing him of starting a fire that broke out last August and killed at least 90 people in northern Algeria.
It was later revealed that Ismail, an artist from Miliana (230 kilometers or 140 miles to the west), went to the area as a volunteer to put out the fire.
Algeria, Africa’s largest country, was one of several Mediterranean countries hit by devastating fires last year.
A court in Dar el-Beida, east of the capital Algiers, on Thursday “sentenced 49 people to death for [Ben Ismail’s] killing and dismembering his body,” the state news agency, APS, said.
The court sentenced another 28 people to two to ten years in prison without parole, APS said.
Videos posted online after the lynching showed a mob surrounding a police car and beating a man inside, dragging him out and setting him on fire, while others took selfies.
The horrific images were widely shared and sparked outrage in Algeria.
The victim’s father, Noureddine Ben Ismail, was praised for calling for calm and “fraternity” among Algerians despite his son’s death.
The fire was started by an arsonist but authorities also blamed “terrorists” for the accident.
Officials also criticized the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK), which Algiers calls a “terrorist organization”. MAK, the independent group of the Amazigh-speaking Kabylie region in northern Algeria, has denied the allegations.
Although most of Algeria is desert, the north has more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres) of forest and is subject to devastating fires every summer.
Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that human-induced global warming will lead to extreme temperatures and extreme weather conditions around the world.