Morocco condemns three to death for brutal killing of Scandinavian hikers

Morocco condemns three to death for brutal killing of Scandinavian hikers
The two Scandinavian hikers were murdered while on a hiking trip in Morocco's High Atlas mountains last year.
2 min read
18 July, 2019
The verdict for another 21 suspects is due soon [Getty]

A Moroccan court condemned three Islamic State group supporters to death for the brutal murder of two Scandinavian women last year it was reported on Thursday.

Suspected ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud and two companions received the maximum penalty over the murders of Danish tourist Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and Norwegian Maren Ueland, 28.

Ueland and Jespersen were on a hiking trip in the High Atlas mountains when they were killed in a grisly attack, with one of the women beheaded.

The anti-terrorist court in Sale, near the capital Rabat, issued the rare verdict following an 11-week trial in a case that has shocked the North African country.

While Morocco continues to hand out the death sentence sporadically for terrorism-related crimes, no criminal has been executed in the country since 1993.

The three admitted to killing the women and said they had been IS supporters.

The group itself never claimed responsibility for the murders.

Ejjoud, a 25-year-old street vendor, had confessed at a previous hearing to beheading one of the women.

Younes Ouaziyad, a 27-year-old carpenter, confessed to the other murder, while Rachid Afatti, 33, admitted to recording the murders on his mobile phone.

The prosecutors and family of the victims had called for the death penalty in response to the gruesome killings.

Helle Petersen, Jespersen's mother, in a letter read out in court last week, said: "The most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve."

The defence team had argued there were "mitigating circumstances on account of their precarious social conditions and psychological disequilibrium", but the prosecution, detailing the grisly nature of the crime, had labeled the defendants "bloodthirsty murderers".

The court also ordered the three to pay 2 million dirhams ($200,000) in compensation to Ueland's parents despite the defendant's modest backgrounds.

But a request from Jespersen's lawyers for 10 million dirhams ($1,044,550) from the Moroccan state for allegedly failing to monitor the activities of some of the suspects before the murders was rejected.

The prosecution has called for jail terms of between 14 years and life for the 21 other defendants on trial in the case.