Suspect pleads innocence over killings of Scandinavian hikers

A Spanish-Swiss man accused of having ties to the alleged killers of two Scandinavian hikers in Morocco told an anti-terror judge he was innocent at a hearing Monday, his lawyer said.

Suspect pleads innocence over killings of Scandinavian hikers
Tributes in Copenhagen to the two Scandinavian hikers who were murdered in a terror-linked attack in Morocco. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

“He affirmed his innocence before the examining magistrate, who heard him out in a positive atmosphere”, lawyer Saad Sahli told AFP. 

Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland were found beheaded on December 17th in the High Atlas mountains south of Marrakesh.

Moroccan authorities have called the killing a “terrorist” act and charged more than 20 people over their alleged involvement.

The Spanish-Swiss suspect, who was arrested in Marrakesh, subscribed to “extremist ideology”, the authorities allege.

He is accused of having “taught certain people arrested in this affair the communication tools of new technologies and of having trained them to shoot”, according to the anti-terror unit of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ).

Investigators say the Spanish-Swiss suspect was involved in “recruitment operations and the indoctrination of Moroccan citizens and sub-Saharan Africans to execute terrorist plans in Morocco”.

The authorities allege that the four main suspects in the murder were inspired by the Islamic State group, but say they were not in direct contact with IS members in Iraq or Syria.

Morocco, which relies heavily on tourism income, suffered a jihadist attack in 2011, when a bomb blast at a Marrakesh cafe killed 17 people, mostly European tourists. 


Morocco death penalties confirmed for killers of Scandinavian hikers

A Moroccan anti-terrorist court on Wednesday confirmed death sentences handed down against three men convicted of beheading two Scandinavian tourists last December, and sentenced a fourth man to be executed.

Morocco death penalties confirmed for killers of Scandinavian hikers
Moroccan police stand guard during the trial in Sale earlier this year. Photo: AFP

All four defendants had been convicted at a trial in July, but the fourth defendant was originally sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the two women, killed while hiking in the High Atlas mountains.

Those sentenced to death included ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud, a street vendor and underground imam, who had confessed to orchestrating the attack with two other radicalised Moroccans.

They had admitted killing 24-year-old Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in murders that shocked the North African country.

Although the death penalty remains legal in Morocco, there have been no executions there since 1993 because of a moratorium, and the issue of capital punishment is a matter of political debate.

The court in Sale, near Rabat, confirmed jail sentences of between five and 30 years against 19 other men, but increased the jail sentence of another man from 15 to 20 years.

The court also confirmed an order for the three men who carried out the killings and their accomplices to pay two million dirhams (190,000 euros) in compensation to Ueland's family.

But it refused a request from the Jespersen family for 10 million dirhams in compensation from the Moroccan state for its “moral responsibility”.

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