Morocco court sentences three to death for killing Scandinavian hikers
A Moroccan court on Thursday sentenced three suspected jihadists to death for the murders of two Scandinavian women beheaded while on a hiking trip in Morocco.
Suspected ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud and two companions received the maximum penalty over the appalling December killings of Danish tourist Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland.
The final court session of the 11-week trial took place on Thursday in Sale, near the north African country’s capital Rabat.
"We expect sentences that match the cruelty of the crime," lawyer Khaled El Fataoui, speaking for the family of Danish victim Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, told AFP prior to the verdicts being reached.
Helle Petersen, her 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."
Prosecutors called for the death penalty for the three main suspects behind the killings in the High Atlas mountains last December.
The maximum sentence was sought for 25-year-old suspected ringleader Ejjoud and two radicalised Moroccans, although Morocco has had a de facto freeze on executions since 1993.
Petitions on social media have likewise called for their execution.
The three admitted to killing Jespersen and Ueland, whose family declined to take part in the trial.
They also said they were supporters of the Islamic State (Isis) group, according to the prosecution, although Isis itself has never claimed responsibility for the murders.
The three killers of the women were "bloodthirsty monsters", the prosecution said, pointing out that an autopsy report had found 23 injuries on Jespersen's body and seven on that of Ueland.
Ejjoud, an underground imam, had confessed at a previous hearing to beheading one of the women and Younes Ouaziyad, a 27-year-old carpenter, the other, while Rachid Afatti, 33, had videoed the murders on his mobile phone.
The defence team argued there were "mitigating circumstances on account of their precarious social conditions and psychological disequilibrium".
Coming from modest backgrounds, with a "very low" level of education, the defendants lived for the most part in low-income areas of Marrakesh.
Jespersen's lawyers have accused authorities of having failed to monitor the activities of some of the suspects before the murders.