Death sentences upheld for Moroccan jihadists who killed female hikers

Three jihadists who beheaded female Scandinavian hikers in Morocco have their death sentences upheld and a fourth is also ordered to be executed

  • Moroccan appeals court upholds death penalties for all three men
  • The anti-terrorism court also handed the death penalty to a fourth accomplice 
  • The men pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video days before the murder 

A Moroccan appeals court has upheld death sentences against three Moroccan men for murdering two Scandinavian women in the Atlas mountains last December.

A fourth man was also handed the death penalty in yesterday’s ruling after he was previously sentenced to life in prison by an anti-terrorism court on July 18. 

The other three were handed death sentences at the time.

Abdessamad Ejjoud (right), Rachid Afatti (left) and Ouziad Younes (centre) had their death sentences for beheading two Scandinavian hikers upheld yesterday. File photo taken in police custody on December 20, 2018.

The three terrorists had their death penalties upheld for killing Maren Ueland, 28 (left), and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24 (right), in December last year

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, were killed in their tent near the Moroccan village of Imlil in the High Atlas Mountains, a popular hiking destination.

The anti-terrorism court in Sale, near Rabat, had heard that the men had pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video days before the murder.

The horrific murder case shocked Morocco, which has had a moratorium on capital punishment since 1993. Besides decapitation, an autopsy report found 23 other injuries on Jespersen’s body and seven on that of Ueland.

Two of the men – Abdessamad Ejjoud and Youness Ouziyad – had told the court they had decapitated the women, while the third – Rachid Afatti, 33 – said he filmed the killing and posted the footage online. 

The fourth man, Abderrahmane Khiali, said he was part of the group but left before the murders.

Twenty other people who prosecutors said had links to the killers were sentenced to between five and 30 years for forming a criminal gang to commit terrorist acts, encouraging terrorism, undermining public order and other crimes.

A portrait of Louisa and Maren are seen at a makeshift memorial among flowers and candles, in Town Hall Square in Copenhagen, Denmark, 28 December 2018.

Swiss-Spanish citizen Kevin Zoller Guervos was the only non-Moroccan among 20 others arrested in connection to the crime

The only non-Moroccan represented in the appeal was Swiss-Spanish citizen Kevin Zoller Guervos, who was arrested in December on suspicion of terrorism. Zoller’s 20 year prison sentence for ‘forming a gang with the aim to commit terrorist acts’ in connection to the murders was also upheld. Guervos was found guilty of having taught the main suspects how to use an encrypted messaging service and to use weapons. 

The court also confirmed an order for the three men who carried out the killings and their accomplices to pay two million dirhams (£160,000) in compensation to Ueland’s family.

But it refused a request from the Jespersen family for 10 million dirhams (£800,000) in compensation from the Moroccan state for its ‘moral responsibility’.

Although the death penalty is legal in Morocco, the issue of capital punishment is a matter of political debate in the country.     

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