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Algiers Authorities Abort Strikes in Kabilia in Reaction to Bensmail’s Case

This is the third consecutive Thursday in which the Kabylian town of Larbaa Nath Irathen has been on general strike, which has expanded to other towns, as Michelet and Tizi Rached–in reaction to “unfair punishment” for the Djamel Bensmail cause relating to intimidation and threats issued by authorities representing the military dictatorship the day before–reported Atalayar on Thursday.

The rallies started after The Algiers Court of Appeals on Nov. 9 rendered a capital punishment verdict for 38 people for their fatal lynching of Djamel Bensmail, a man mistaken for an arsonist, who–in a morbid twist of irony–actually assisted in extinguishing deadly fires in 2021.

They reject the sentences handed down at the conclusion of “an unfair trial whose sole goal is to clear the police of any suspicion–as they are the true perpetrators of the cowardly murder and lynching of Bensmail–as shown by photos and video recordings posted on social networks,” according to a family member of one of the convicted men.

On the eve of the general strike on Thursday, a large-scale operation of threats and intimidation took place throughout the day today in Ath Irathen.

The gendarmerie in Kabylia circumvented the shopkeepers with a heavy hand, summoning them one-by-one to “stay open or else” on November 23, adding, “It’s serious; this time your business registration will be withdrawn!”

The Education Department of the wilaya of Tizi Ouzou has mobilized all the agents in the middle and high schools to issue “notices” signed by the heads of establishments and addressed to all pupils to inform them that “any absence will be cut off” on the strike day.

The affair dates back to August, 2021, when violent fires ravaged the Kabyle region for days on end, without the government taking the slightest action to extinguish the fires that killed 65 people, not to mention the material damage and the loss of livestock, along with thousands of olive, fig and cherry trees.

Djamel Bensmail, aged 38, had volunteered in the Tizi Ouzou region (northeastern Algeria) to extinguish the fire that was ravaging the region in August, 2021. Because he was a foreigner, locals accused him of setting fire to the forest and attacked him. Though he turned himself in to the police, Bensmail was released to the angry mob who burned him alive.

A few days later, the security services carried out a vast campaign of arrests targeting the people who appeared in these recordings. However, the most high-profile individuals–who had been suspected of affiliation with the police and internal security services–were not among those arrested.