On October 15, over 100 defendants faced their charges in an appeal at the Casablanca Appeal Court in the Algerian Capital, Algiers, reports French newspaper, Le Monde.
Multiple people faced a retrial as around 50 were sentenced to death for the killing of Djamel Bensmail back in July 2021.
Although death sentences are handed out for the most heinous crimes in Algeria and neighbouring countries, they are not carried out regularly.
Bensmail, who was an artist who lived in the commune of Miliana, northwest Algeria , was beaten to death and set on fire by irate locals who believed he was at the forefront of the 2021 forest fires in Algeria’s Kabylia region.
Footage of the brutal murder circulated on social media sites shorthly after the 38-year old’s death.
A region in the country’s north, Kabylia has been seeking its independence from Algeria. Ferhat Mehenni, The President of the Kabyle Government in exile, has continuously criticised President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and was outraged by his mere presence at this year’s UN General Assembly in New York.
The leader of the seperatist government wrote a letter to the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres condemning the Algerian President being in attendance at the gathering.
Mehenni’s letter said, “Kabylia, colonised by Algeria, is appalled by the presence of Abdelmadjid Tebboune for the first time at the United Nations General Assembly,”.
Ferhat Mehenni leads the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK) and the police department investigating the killing have issued an arrest warrant against him.
Mehenni now lives in France as a political refugee.
Those put on trial faced accusations that they had received orders from the separatist movement to kill Mr Bensmail.
The movement strongly denied accusations that the called for the killing of Bensmail and were angered at the authorities’ attempt to link the murder to them
A lawyer representing MAK said “the prisoners who were accused and convicted of the crime were forced to sign false confessions. The first question the authorities asked every suspect was “are you a member of MAK?” ,they were looking for a way to tie culpability to MAK.”.
The victim in fact played his part in putting out the fires in the Tizi Ouzou region.
“What’s at stake here is whether the world believes the narrative of a brutal military regime (Algerian government) known for brazen human rights abuses of prisoners and whose inspiration and interest is Russia and authoritarianism or whether it listens to a peaceful independence movement” she told Maghrebi.
Similarly in July and September of this year, forest fires raged through the Kabylia region. In July’s fires 40 people died and around 1,500 had to be evacuated.