Three jihadists who beheaded two female Scandinavian hikers in Morocco Thursday were sentenced to death after pleading for ‘forgiveness from Allah’
During the trial prosecutors called the killers, Abdessamad Ejjoud, Younes Ouaziyad and Rachid Afatti, ‘human beasts’
The suspected ISIS militants were handed the penalty for killing Maren Ueland, and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen in Dec 2018
23 Moroccan men appeared in court to be sentenced for murdering Ueland, 28, from Norway and Jespersen, 24, from Denmark in December
Three men who were accused of stabbing the women to death, then filmed themselves beheading the pair – calling them ‘enemies of God’, were handed death sentences at the end of the 11-week trial in Sale, near the capital Rabat
Abdessamad Ejjoud, an underground imam, had confessed at a previous hearing to beheading one of the women
Younes Ouaziyad, a 27-year-old carpenter, the other victims, while Rachid Afatti, 33, recorded the murders on his cell phone
The Other 20 suspects begged Allah for mercy as they waited to hear their fates Thursday
A separate video showed four of the men pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in front of a black and white ISIS flag.
All 23 defendants addressed the court on Thursday, most pleaded with Allah for mercy, before the judges retired to decide their fate.
n his closing arguments in June, the prosecutor described the three as ‘human beasts’ and asked for death sentences.
Thursday’s sentencing marks the first time since 1993 that Morocco has handed out the death penalty.
The verdicts were given at a final court session of the 11-week trial in Sale, near the capital Rabat, in the midst of petitions on social media that have called for the execution of the murderers.
Journalists gathered outside the anti-terrorist court ahead of verdicts expected to be announced later Thursday in the case that has shocked the North African country.
‘We expect sentences that match the cruelty of the crime,’ lawyer Khaled El Fataoui, speaking for the family of Danish victim Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, said after the sentencing on Thursday.
Helle Petersen, her mother, in a letter read out in court last week, demanded that: ‘The most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve.’
The prosecution has called for jail terms of between 15 years and life for the 21 other defendants on trial since May 2.
A life sentence has been sought for Abderrahim Khayali, a 33-year-old plumber, who had accompanied the three alleged assailants but left the scene before the murders.
The prosecution called for 20 years in jail for Kevin Zoller Guervos, a Spanish-Swiss convert to Islam.
The only non-Moroccan in the group, Guervos is accused of having taught the main suspects how to use an encrypted messaging service and to use weapons.
His lawyer, Saad Sahli, said Guervos had cut all ties with the other suspects ‘once he knew they had extremist ideas’ more than 18 months ago.
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 decapitated body and seven on that of Ueland.
Ejjoud, an underground imam, had confessed at a previous hearing to beheading one of the women and
The suspects walk into court under heavy guard in Salé near Rabat
The verdict follows an 11-week trial in Salé near the capital Rabat.
Abdessamad Ejjoud, an underground imam, admitted killing one of the two women in May. “I beheaded one of them… I regret it,” the street vendor told the court.
French media report that Ejjoud had served a prison sentence in Morocco for trying to join the Islamic State [ISIS], group in Syria, and was released in 2015.
Younes Ouaziyad, a 27-year-old carpenter, killed the other victim, while Rachid Afatti, 33, had videoed the murders on his cell phone. A video appearing to show one of the women being beheaded was shared online by ISIS supporters.
The defense 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.
The two women were on a Christmas camping trip and were studying to become tour guides. The killers took four days to identify the women as targets, the prosecution said, and chose them because other potential victims were with guides.
Jespersen’s lawyers have accused authorities of a failure to monitor the activities of some of the suspects before the killings.
Moroccan authorities were criticized by Vesterager Jespersen’s lawyer for failing to monitor the suspects’ activities, which could have prevented the women being killed.
The Jespersen family requested 10m dirhams [$1m] compensation from the Moroccan government for its “moral responsibility” but this was rejected by the court, but the three men who were convicted were ordered to pay 2m dirhams in compensation.