October 31, 2019 / 10:26 AM / 18 days ago

Death sentence confirmed against four men in Morocco backpacker murders

RABAT (Reuters) - A Moroccan appeals court upheld, late on Wednesday, death sentences against three Moroccan men for murdering two Scandinavian women in the Atlas mountains last December.

A fourth man was also handed capital punishment after he was sentenced to life in prison by an anti-terrorism court on July 18. The other three were handed death sentences at the time.

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, were killed in their tent near the Moroccan village of Imlil, a popular hiking destination.

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

Two of them - Abdessamad Ejjoud and Youness Ouziyad - had told the court they had decapitated the women, while the third - Rachid Afatti - said he filmed the killing and posted the footage online.

The fourth man, Abderrahmane Khiali, said he was part of the group but left before the murders.

Twenty other people who prosecutors said had links to the killers were sentenced to between five and 30 years for forming a criminal gang to commit terrorist acts, encouraging terrorism, undermining public order and other crimes.

Although capital punishment is legal in Morocco, the country has had a freeze on executions since 1993.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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