Death penalty sought for 3 accused of murdering hikers in Morocco

Rachid Afatti, left, Younes Ouaziyad, center, and Abdessamad Ejjoud, the three main suspects in the murder of two Scandinavian hikers. (AFP)
Updated 27 June 2019

Death penalty sought for 3 accused of murdering hikers in Morocco

  • The maximum sentence was sought for 25-year-old suspected ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud and two radicalized Moroccans
  • The three admitted to killing Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in the High Atlas mountains

SALÉ, Morocco: Moroccan prosecutors on Thursday called for the death penalty for the three main extremist suspects on trial for the “bloodthirsty” murder of two young Scandinavian hikers.
The maximum sentence was sought for 25-year-old suspected ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud and two radicalized Moroccans, although the country has had a de facto freeze on executions since 1993.
The three admitted to killing Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in the High Atlas mountains last December.
The prosecution called for jail terms of between 15 years and life for the 21 other defendants on trial before an anti-terror court in Sale, near Rabat.
The life sentence was 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, a Spanish-Swiss convert to Islam.
All but three of those on trial had said they were supporters of the Daesh group, according to the prosecution.
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, an underground imam, 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.
Lawyers for the Danish victim’s family on Thursday accused authorities of having failed to monitor the activities of some of the suspects before the two women camped in an isolated mountain area had their throats slit.
The brutal killings could have been spared had authorities heeded information on the behavior of street vendor Ejjoud, they said.
The alleged ringleader who had been convicted for trying to join Daesh in Syria was released early from prison in 2015 and went on to meet former inmates and other individuals without checks by authorities, attorney Khaled El Fataoui said.
He alleged police had been informed of their activities but failed to act.
Lawyer Houssine Raji added the suspects met in Qur’anic schools run by cleric Mohamed Al-Maghraoui, which had been shut in 2010 under a court decision but ordered reopened in 2012 by the justice minister.
The lawyers demanded that Maghraoui and the then justice minister Mustapha Ramid be summoned for questioning, a request rejected by the court.
Investigators have said the “cell” was inspired by Daesh ideology, but Morocco’s anti-terror chief insisted the accused had no contact with the extremist group in conflict zones. 

Daesh has never claimed responsibility for the murders.


No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

Updated 22 August 2019

No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

  • Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017
  • The refugees asked Myanmar authorities to guarantee their safety and citizenship
TEKNAF, Bangladesh: A fresh push to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar appeared Thursday to fall flat, with no one turning up to hop on five buses and 10 trucks laid on by Bangladesh.
“We have been waiting since 9:00 am (0300 GMT) to take any willing refugees for repatriation,” Khaled Hossain, a Bangladesh official in charge of the Teknaf refugee camp, told AFP after over an hour of waiting.
“Nobody has yet turned up.”
Some 740,000 of the long-oppressed mostly Muslim Rohingya minority fled a military offensive in 2017 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that the United Nations has likened to ethnic cleansing, joining 200,000 already in Bangladesh.
Demanding that Buddhist-majority Myanmar guarantee their safety and citizenship, only a handful have returned from the vast camps in southeast Bangladesh where they have now lived for two years.
The latest repatriation attempt — a previous push failed in November — follows a visit last month to the camps by high-ranking officials from Myanmar led by Permanent Foreign Secretary Myint Thu.
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry forwarded a list of more than 22,000 refugees to Myanmar for verification and Naypyidaw cleared 3,450 individuals for “return.”
But on Wednesday, several Rohingya refugees whose names were listed told AFP that said they did not want to return unless their safety was ensured and they were granted citizenship.
“It is not safe to return to Myanmar,” one of them, Nur Islam, told AFP.
Officials from the UN and Bangladesh’s refugee commission have also been interviewing Rohingya families in the settlements to find out if they wanted to return.
“We have yet to get consent from any refugee family,” a UN official said Wednesday.
Rohingya community leader Jafar Alam told AFP the refugees had been gripped by fear since authorities announced the fresh repatriation process.
They also feared being sent to camps for internally displaced people (IDP) if they went back to Myanmar.
Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said they were “fully prepared” for the repatriation with security being tightened across the refugee settlements to prevent any violence or protests.
Officials said they would wait for a few more hours before deciding whether to postpone the repatriation move.
In New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that repatriations had to be “voluntary.”
“Any return should be voluntary and sustainable and in safety and in dignity to their place of origin and choice,” Dujarric told reporters.
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on the issue on Wednesday.
Sunday will mark the second anniversary of the crackdown that sparked the mass exodus to the Bangladesh camps.
The Rohingya are not recognized as an official minority by the Myanmar government, which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in Rakhine for generations.