3 jihadists who beheaded 2 Scandinavian tourists and circulated video online sentenced to death by Moroccan court
Abdessamad Ejjoud, Younes Ouaziyad, and Rachid Afatti are set to become the first men to be executed in Morocco since 1993
Three suspected ISIS militants have been sentenced to death in Morocco for the brutal murders of two Scandinavian hikers in what was a historic ruling for the country.
The convicts, 25-year-old Abdessamad Ejjoud, 27-year-old Younes Ouaziyad, and 33-year-old Rachid Afatti, were sentenced to death by firing squad for the beheading of 28-year-old Maren Ueland of Norway, and 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen of Denmark, in Morocco's High Atlas Mountains in December, according to the Daily Mail.
The verdict was handed down at a final court session on Thursday, July 18, following the conclusion of an 11-week trial in Sale, near the capital Rabat, that saw all 26 defendants plead with Allah for mercy.
Ueland's and Jespersen's bodies were found on December 17 in a tent in an isolated area near Mount Toubkal, Morocco's highest peak and a popular destination for hikers, according to a BBC report. Their deaths had shocked the nation because of the gruesome manner they were killed, with videos of their murder circulated widely on social media.
Ejjoud and Ouaziyad had beheaded the hikers while Afatti filmed on his mobile phone, with several others watching. At one point, they can be heard branding the two women as "enemies of god".
The trio, as well as 23 others, were arrested in connection to the incident, and Ejjoud, Ouaziyad, and Afatti confessed to their roles in the killing. All three are said they were supporters of the Islamic State (IS), though the militant organization did not claim responsibility for the deaths.
"We loved Islamic State and prayed to god for it," Ejjoud told the court. The prosecution said the killings were calculated and that the trio had taken four days to identify the women as targets, choosing them because other potential victims were with tour guides.
They described the three as "bloodthirsty monsters" pointing to an autopsy report that found 23 injuries on Jespersen's decapitated body and seven on that of Ueland.
The defense, in turn, had argued that there were "mitigating circumstances on account of their precarious social conditions and psychological disequilibrium." They said the defendants were from modest backgrounds with a "very low" level of education who had lived out most of their lives in the low-income areas of Marrakesh.
In the closing arguments in June, prosecutors described the trio as "human beasts" and asked the court to hand down death sentences.
In a letter written by Helle Peterssen, the mother of Jespersen, read out to the court before their sentencing, she similarly said that "the most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve."
Her family also requested 10 million dirhams ($1 million) in compensation from the Moroccan government, a request which was denied. However, the court did order Ejjoud, Ouaziyad, and Afatti to pay 2 million dirhams ($200,000).
If the executions go ahead, they will be the first in the country since 1993. The prosecution also called for sentences between 15 years and life for the other 23 defendants.