Friday, January 15, 2021

Scandinavians beheaded in Morocco: defendant’s words of defiance before deliberation

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The appeal on the decapitation of two young Scandinavians to Morocco on behalf of the Islamic State (IS) group concluded on Wednesday with defiant words from the three main defendants before the deliberations. “If you condemn us, execute us, I excommunicate you, I do not believe in your laws or in human rights”, replied the suspected leader of the radicalized cell, Abdessamad Ejjoud, to the judges of the court of call from Sale, near Rabat.

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Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, a 24-year-old Danish student, and her friend Maren Ueland, a 28-year-old Norwegian, were savagely killed in December 2018 while camping in the High Atlas mountains (south). A group of 24 men have been on appeal since late August for this double murder. The Salé court, which specializes in terrorist cases, was scheduled to give judgment on Wednesday night.

The prosecution demands their “effective” execution

Abdessamad Ejjoud was sentenced to death in first instance in July, after confessing his involvement in double murder of Scandinavians, along with two other defendants, Younes Ouaziyad, 27, and Rachid Afatti, 33. Prosecution has appealed the confirmation of these sentences in wishing their effective “execution”, the death penalty is de facto theoretical in Morocco due to a moratorium in force since 1993.

Abderrahim Khayali was sentenced to life in July, again assured Wednesday that he had not participated in the crime. The prosecutor has appealed the death sentence against him. The other 20 defendants were sentenced between five and 20 years in prison for forming a band for the purpose of committing terrorist acts.

Abdessamad Ejjoud was sentenced to death in first instance in July, after confessing his involvement in double murder of Scandinavians

On Wednesday, they alternately implored the clemency of the judges by saying they were innocent, some of them offering their condolences to the families of the Scandinavians. One of them, sentenced to 15 years in prison in July, invoked the law that protects witnesses by ensuring to have alerted the authorities late 2016 on the activities of Ejjoud, the brains of operations.

The only foreigner in the group, Kevin Zoller Guervos, a 25-year-old Hispano-Swiss convert, preferred to give the floor to his lawyer to reiterate his innocence. A letter from her mother was read at the hearing, expressing her compassion for the mothers of the two victims and saying that “he too is a victim, a victim of his bad luck that led him to meet the murderers”.

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Some defendants had initially admitted to the violent ideology of IS but went back on their statements on appeal. The mother of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, who filed a civil suit, called on the judges to confirm the death sentence against the main defendants, in a letter read by her lawyer. The double murder has rocked Morocco, which had been spared by radical Islamists since the attacks that killed 17 people in 2011 in Marrakesh.

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