Trial nears end for suspects in killing of Scandinavian hikers

SALÉ, Morocco (AFP) – The trial of the suspected militant killers of two Scandinavian women hikers beheaded in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains last December neared its close yesterday as lawyers prepared to deliver their final arguments.

Prosecutors have called for the death penalty for the three main suspects behind the “bloodthirsty” murder of the young Scandinavians.

The maximum sentence was sought for 25-year-old suspected ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud and two radicalised Moroccans, although the country has had a de facto freeze on executions since 1993.

Petitions on social media have called for their execution.

The three admitted to killing Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland.

The prosecution has called for jail terms of between 15 years and life for the 21 other defendants on trial since May 2 before an anti-terror court in Sale, near Rabat.

The life sentence has been sought for Abderrahim Khayali, a 33-year-old plumber, who had accompanied the three assailants but left the scene before the murders.

The prosecution called for 20 years in jail for Kevin Zoller Guervos.

All but three of those on trial had said they were supporters of the Islamic State (IS) group, according to the prosecution, although IS itself has never claimed responsibility for the murders.

The three killers of the girls 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 had confessed to beheading one of the girls and Younes Ouaziyad, a 27-year-old carpenter, the other, while Rachid Afatti, 33, had videoed the murders on his mobile.