Danish PM joins hundreds at funeral for Dane slain in Morocco

Hundreds of mourners, including Denmark's prime minister, packed a small Danish church on Saturday for the funeral of a woman hiker murdered in Morocco's Atlas Mountains in December.

Danish PM joins hundreds at funeral for Dane slain in Morocco
Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix
Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, was killed together with 28-year-old Maren Ueland from Norway, as the two camped overnight at an isolated hiking spot south of Marrakesh while on vacation. Their bodies were found the following day.
Moroccan authorities have said they were beheaded and are calling the crime a “terrorist” act.
Saturday's 45-minute service for Jespersen was held at the Fonnesbæk Church in Ikast, in the Mid Jutland region of Denmark.
Speaking just before Jespersen's casket was carried out of the church, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen vowed her life would not be forgotten.
“Though the pain is unbearable, we must not succumb. We must remember who we are, what we are made of, and what we stand for,” he said.
According to tabloid B.T., more than 400 people attended the service in the small, modern church. An adjoining room next to the main hall was opened to accommodate all of the guests.
Moroccan authorities have arrested a total of 22 people in connection with the murders. They include four main suspects and a Spanish-Swiss man who had links to some of the suspects and who subscribed to “extremist ideology”, Moroccan officials say.
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.
Jespersen and Ueland had been studying outdoor activities and tourism at the University of Southeastern Norway. The pair decided to go to Morocco for Christmas and arrived for a month-long holiday on December 9.
They had travelled to the foothills of Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak, not far from the tourist village of Imlil. Friends have described the two young women as “adventurers” and “sociable”.
“The girls took all the necessary precautions before leaving for the trip,” Maren's mother Irene told Norwegian's NRK television in December.
Ueland's funeral is to be held in Norway on January 21.


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”.

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