Sunday, 22 September 2019 10:17 GMT

Suspects back in Morocco court over Scandinavian hiker murders

(MENAFN - Jordan Times) SALE,Morocco — The trial inMoroccoof two dozen men over the murders of two Scandinavian hikers resumed on Thursday after previous hearings were swiftly adjourned.Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland had their throats slit while camping in an isolated area of the High Atlas Mountains in December.The main suspects, who allegedly pledged allegiance to the Daesh group, are all from the Marrakesh region, near the site of the killings which shocked the north African country.

The 24 defendants arrived on Thursday morning at the court in Sale, near Rabat, under heavy security.

They face charges including promoting terrorism, forming a terrorist cell and premeditated murder.

In theory, the killers could face the death penalty, butMoroccohas had a de facto freeze on executions since 1993.

At a previous hearing, the court accepted a request by the Jespersen family's lawyer for the government to be held 'morally responsible' for the killings so they could receive compensation.

Three men are suspected of direct involvement in the killings. One of them, street vendor Abdessamad Ejjoud, had been jailed for trying to join Daesh in Syria.

The trial opened on May 2 but was adjourned to May 16 and then paused again after a brief hearing.

Nature lovers Jespersen and Ueland shared an apartment and went to Norway's Bo University, where they were studying to be guides.

They had travelled together toMoroccofor their Christmas holidays.

Their lives were ended in the foothills of Toubkal, the highest summit in north Africa, some 80 kilometres from the city of Marrakesh, a tourist magnet.

According to the charge sheet, the assailants travelled to the High Atlas Mountains on December 12 on a mission to kill tourists.

Several potential targets were passed over because the foreigners were accompanied by guides or local residents.

It was four days before the killers selected their targets, according to the prosecution. It said two of them carried out the killings while the third filmed them on a phone.

After the bodies were discovered, the Moroccan authorities were initially cautious, referring to a 'criminal act' and wounds to the victims' necks.

But that changed when the video surfaced showing a victim being beheaded.

The only foreigner among the defendants is Spanish-Swiss 25-year-old Kevin Zoller Guervos, who moved toMoroccoafter converting to Islam.

The others come from modest backgrounds, scraping by on odd jobs and living in neglected areas of Marrakesh, the north African kingdom's main tourist city.

Investigators said the 'cell' was inspired by Daesh ideology, butMorocco's anti-terror chief insisted the accused had no contact with the terrorist group in conflict zones.


Suspects back in Morocco court over Scandinavian hiker murders

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