Three Moroccans get death sentence for killing Scandinavian women

Security forces stand guard outside a court room before the start of a final trial session for suspects charged in connection with killing of two Scandinavian tourists in Morocco's Atlas Mountains, in Sale, near Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 July 2019

Three Moroccans get death sentence for killing Scandinavian women

  • The Moroccan street vendor admitted to killing 24-year-old Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in murders that shocked the North African country

SALE, Morocco: Three Daesh supporters were sentenced to death by a court in Morocco on Thursday over the beheadings of two Scandinavian women on a hiking trip in the High Atlas Mountains.

The defendants had asked God for forgiveness during their final statements at a packed courtroom in Sale, near the capital Rabat, following an 11-week trial of 24 suspects.

His expressionless face framed by a beard and a traditional kufi cap, alleged ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud appealed to God to “forgive” him.

The 25-year-old street vendor has confessed to orchestrating the attack with two other radicalized Moroccans last December.

He and two others admitted to killing 24-year-old Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in murders that shocked the North African country.

Prosecutors and social media users had called for the death penalty for all three, despite Morocco having a de facto freeze on executions since 1993.

Younes Ouaziyad, a 27-year-old carpenter who admitted to beheading one of the tourists, also asked for “God’s forgiveness.”

“There is no god but God,” said the third alleged assailant 33-year-old Rachid Afatti, who has admitted to filming the grisly murders on his mobile phone. Journalists had gathered outside the anti-terrorist court ahead of the ruling.

“We expect sentences that match the cruelty of the crime,” lawyer Khaled El Fataoui, speaking for Jespersen’s family, told AFP.

Helle Petersen, her mother, in a letter read out in court last week, said: “The most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve.”

Ueland’s family had declined to take part in the trial.

The prosecution has called for jail terms of between 15 years and life for the 21 other defendants on trial since May 2.

The court sentenced Kevin Zoller Guervos, a Spanish-Swiss convert to Islam, to 20 years for joining a “terrorist group.”

The only non-Moroccan in the group, Guervos was 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.

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

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 had confessed at a previous hearing to beheading one of the women and Ouaziyad the other while Afatti filmed.

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 court however ordered the three to pay 2 million dirhams ($200,000) in compensation to Ueland’s parents.

Jespersen’s lawyers have accused authorities of failing to monitor the activities of some of the suspects before the murders.

But the court rejected the Jespersen family’s request for 10 million dirhams in compensation from the Moroccan state for its “moral responsibility.”


Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

Updated 26 January 2020

Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

  • ahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani
  • "How long can it possibly be sustained?”

LONDON: The former crown prince of Iran says the regime is cracking from within under the pressure of a wave of fresh protests.

Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah, was just 17 when he fled into exile with his family during the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the monarchy.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said the demonstrations, which have included chants for the royal family to return, show that the current regime may be coming to an end.

“The cracking from within of the system is getting more and more obvious,” he said. “When you look at the circumstances in Iran today, put yourselves in the shoes of the worst-off — how long can it possibly be sustained?”

The protests intensified in November after an increase in fuel prices. Vast crowds demonstrated in cities across the country before the regime cut the internet and killed hundreds of people in a brutal crackdown.

Large numbers returned to the streets this month, angered by the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Iranian military, and Tehran’s initial insistence that it was an accident.

“The protests are very pervasive, in many sectors of society,” Pahlavi, 59, said in Washington where he lives. “They are all over the country. And a new development we haven’t seen before: the so-called silent middle class, which until now were not taking positions, are beginning to speak out.

“I’m not saying this is a guaranteed collapse. But the ingredients that get us closer to that point seem to be more prevailing these days than ever before.”

Pahlavi said he no longer has any desire to return to the throne, despite once being a rallying point for opposition groups after his father died in 1980.

However, he said he believed there could be a new Iran after the fall of the clerical regime and that his role could be as a go-between for the Iranian diaspora, foreign governments and opposition groups inside Iran.

“To the extent that there is a name recognition, I can utilise that,” he said. “I have no ambition of any kind of role or function or title. I’d like to be an advocate for the people. I don’t let any of this go to my head, I’ve been around too long for that.”

Pahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani “as a breakthrough that is positive for the region.”

He also backs the punishing US sanctions introduced when Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

He said he hopes one day to be able to return to his homeland.

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