April 12, 2019 / 5:20 PM / 8 days ago

Moroccan court sentences Swiss national to 10 years on terrorism charges

RABAT (Reuters) - A Moroccan court has sentenced a Swiss national to 10 years in prison on terrorism charges over links to the suspects in the killing of two Scandinavian women near Marrakech in December, the state news agency MAP said on Friday.

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway were found dead on Dec. 17 near the village of Imlil in the Atlas Mountains.

The 33-year-old man sentenced on Thursday was identified by Moroccan media only as Nicolas P. Media said he also holds British citizenship.

Arrested on Dec. 29 in Marrakech, he was tried on charges of “forming a gang to plot and commit terrorist acts aiming at seriously undermining state security, intentionally helping the perpetrators of terrorist acts, training people to join terrorist organizations and apologia for terrorism,” MAP said.

The first instance verdict, which will likely be followed by an appeal, was separate from the case of a Swiss-Spanish national, identified by media as Kevin P. His lawyer, Saad Salhi, told Reuters his trial, as part of a group of 25 other suspects in the double murder, had not begun yet.

Four main suspects pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video made three days before the tourists’ bodies were found. Authorities described them after they were arrested as “lone wolves” who had not coordinated the killings with Islamic State.

Compared with other countries in North Africa, Morocco has been largely insulated from Islamist militant violence.

The most recent attack took place in April 2011 when 17 people were killed in the bombing of a restaurant in Marrakech. In 2017 and 2018, Morocco said it dismantled 20 militant cells that were planning attacks in the country.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Frances Kerry

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