Three men accused of the murder of two Scandinavian hikers in the Atlas Mountains last year have been sentenced to death, an antiterrorism court in Morocco decided on Thursday.
Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark, were discovered dead at their campsite in a remote part of the Atlas Mountains in December 2018 with wounds to their necks. The incident was labeled by Moroccan authorities as a terror attack after some of the men involved pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The men were tried under an antiterrorism law and were the main defendants in a case that put two dozen suspects on trial over the women’s deaths last year.
Following a seven-month trial, Abdessamad Al Joud, Younes Ouziad and Rachid Afati were sentenced to death, while a fourth man, Abderahman Khayali, was handed a life sentence, according to Moroccan state television.
Twenty others were handed sentences ranging from five to 30 years, in the killings of the two European tourists. Both women had been studying in Norway to become tour guides. Their bodies were found at a site that often is the starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak.
Some of the men involved in the murders had recorded a video in which they pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and the women’s attackers had also posted grisly videos on social media of their murder.
In a gruesome clip, posted on social media shortly after the attack, one of the victims could be heard screaming while a man cut her neck with a knife.
Hours before the ruling, in a room packed with national and international news outlets and the victims’ families, some of the killers asked mercy from God but none expressed remorse, according to local news reports. Others vowed they were innocent of the charges against them.
Last week, Helle Petersen, the mother of Ms. Jespersen, urged the court to give the accused the death sentence for their role in her daughter’s death, according to Agence France-Presse.
“The most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve, I ask that of you,” she said in a letter read in court by her lawyer. “My life was destroyed the moment that two policemen came to my door on 17 December to announce my daughter’s death.”