Two minutes’ silence in Norway for Scandinavian hikers murdered in Morocco

Hundreds of people observed two minutes of silence on Monday in Norway in honour of two Scandinavian women hikers murdered in Morocco's Atlas Mountains in December.

Two minutes' silence in Norway for Scandinavian hikers murdered in Morocco
Photo: Terje Bendiksby / NTB scanpix/Ritzau Scanpix

Standing in the cold with flags flying at half-mast at the University of South-Eastern Norway in the town of Bø, the participants gathered to remember 28-year-old Maren Ueland from Norway, and 24-year-old Dane Louisa Vesterager Jespersen. Both were both students there.

The two women were killed at an isolated hiking spot south of Marrakesh overnight December 16th-17th, where they were vacationing. Their bodies were found the following day.

Authorities have said they were beheaded and are calling the crime a “terrorist” act.

The university addressed the murders with students on Monday morning as classes resumed after the Christmas break.

“We talked with the students and tried not to understand what can't be understood, but we tried to make it easier for the students to put words on what has happened,” Annette Bischoff, the head of the faculty where the two women were studying to be travel guides, told AFP.

“This is very difficult for all of us, especially for the students who lived and studied with them,” she said.

Moroccan authorities have arrested a total of 22 people in connection with the murders. They include the four main suspects and a Spanish-Swiss man who had links to some of the suspects and who subscribed to “extremist ideology”, say Moroccan officials.

The main suspects belonged to a cell inspired by Islamic State group ideology, but none of the four had contact with IS members in Syria or Iraq, Morocco's counter-terror chief Abdelhak Khiam told AFP.

READ ALSO: Morocco arrests Swiss man over links to hiker murder suspects


Morocco death penalties confirmed for killers of Scandinavian hikers

A Moroccan anti-terrorist court on Wednesday confirmed death sentences handed down against three men convicted of beheading two Scandinavian tourists last December, and sentenced a fourth man to be executed.

Morocco death penalties confirmed for killers of Scandinavian hikers
Moroccan police stand guard during the trial in Sale earlier this year. Photo: AFP

All four defendants had been convicted at a trial in July, but the fourth defendant was originally sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the two women, killed while hiking in the High Atlas mountains.

Those sentenced to death included ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud, a street vendor and underground imam, who had confessed to orchestrating the attack with two other radicalised Moroccans.

They had admitted killing 24-year-old Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in murders that shocked the North African country.

Although the death penalty remains legal in Morocco, there have been no executions there since 1993 because of a moratorium, and the issue of capital punishment is a matter of political debate.

The court in Sale, near Rabat, confirmed jail sentences of between five and 30 years against 19 other men, but increased the jail sentence of another man from 15 to 20 years.

The court also confirmed an order for the three men who carried out the killings and their accomplices to pay two million dirhams (190,000 euros) in compensation to Ueland's family.

But it refused a request from the Jespersen family for 10 million dirhams in compensation from the Moroccan state for its “moral responsibility”.

READ ALSO: Convicts appeal in Morocco case of murdered Danish, Norwegian hikers