Morocco: Mother of beheaded hiker calls for death penalty at trial

The trial of the suspected killers of two young Scandinavian women last year is nearing an end

People stand outside a court during a trial for suspects charged with killing of two Scandinavian tourists in Morocco's Atlas Mountains in Sale, near Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, July 11, 2019. Nearly two dozen people, suspected killers and accomplices, appeared in court on terrorism charges for the brutal slayings last December of two Scandinavian women hikers. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
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As the trial of the suspected killers of two young Scandinavian hikers in Morocco last year nears its end, the mother of the Danish student beheaded along with her friend called for the accused to face the death penalty.

"The most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve; I ask that of you," said Helle Petersen in a letter read by her lawyer in an anti-terrorist court in Sale, near the capital Rabat.

“My life was destroyed the moment that two policemen came to my door on December 17 to announce my daughter’s death,” the mother of 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen wrote in the letter, read out in total silence and with the defendants’ faces impassive.

Journalists flocked to the court on Thursday where the trial of the 24 suspects reopened, in a case that has shocked the North African country.

Prosecutors have already called for the death penalty for the three main suspects behind the murder of the women in the High Atlas mountains.

The maximum sentence was sought for the suspected ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud, 25, and two radicalised Moroccans, although the country has had a de facto freeze on executions since 1993. Petitions on social media have also called for their execution.

The three admitted to killing Jespersen and Norwegian Maren Ueland, 28, whose family declined to attend the trial.

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

The life sentence was sought for Abderrahim Khayali, a 33-year-old plumber who accompanied the three alleged 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. The only non-Moroccan in the group, Guervos is accused of having taught the main suspects how to use weapons and an encrypted messaging service.

Coming from modest backgrounds, with a "very low" level of education, the defendants lived in low-income areas of Marrakesh.

Jespersen's lawyers accused the Moroccan authorities of having failed to monitor the activities of some of the suspects before they slit the throats of the women as they camped in the isolated mountain region.