Atlas Mountains murders: Three extremists sentenced to death for beheading Scandinavian hikers

Sean Morrison

Three extremists who beheaded two Scandinavian women in the Atlas Mountains have been sentenced to death in Morocco.

Tourists Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, were found dead at the popular hiking destination on December 17.

The murders were recorded on video and posted online.

Jounes Ouzayed, Rashid Afatti and Abdessamad Al Joud were described as “human beasts” as they were sentenced to death by a court in Morocco over the killings.

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen was one of (Bovec Sports Center Archive/via REUTERS)

A fourth man who fled the scene, Khaiali Abderahman, was given life in prison for his involvement.

After several hours of deliberation, the court handed 19 accomplices of the three main defendants jail terms ranging from five to 30 years.

None of the men reacted as the sentences were read out but families of those convicted rushed out of the crowded courtroom in the Moroccan city of Sale crying.

The men claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Victim: Maren Ueland from Norway (AFP/Getty Images)

In his closing arguments in June, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence the key suspects to death, and described the three main defendants as "human beasts".

A Swiss man, Kevin Zoller, who was among the accomplices, received a 20-year sentence.

A lawyer for Ms Vesterager's family said he was "100 per cent satisfied" with the verdicts.

Khalid El Fataoui noted that Ms Vesterager's mother had asked the court in a letter at an earlier hearing this month to sentence the killers to death.

"We obtained what she asked for."

The anti-terrorism court in Sale, near Rabat, had heard at earlier sessions that the men had pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video days before the murder.

Their lawyer, Hafida El Maksaoui, said she would appeal against the sentences.

Agencies contributed to this report