Moroccan jailed over murder of Scandinavian hikers reported to have killed himself

Morocco's prison service said on Tuesday that a man sentenced to death over the 2018 beheadings of two Scandinavian women hikers had killed himself in his cell.

Moroccan jailed over murder of Scandinavian hikers reported to have killed himself
A file photo of the gate at a prison near Rabat, Morocco. Photo: FADEL SENNA / AFP

“This morning, (the prisoner) at Oujda prison committed suicide,” the General Directorate for Prisons said in a statement.

He had used a piece of cloth ripped from his clothes and tied it to the window, it added.

Prosecutors and the inmate’s family had been immediately informed, it said.

Four defendants were sentenced to death in October 2019 for the brutal murders the previous December of 24-year-old Dane Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in the High Atlas mountains, a case that shocked all three countries.

A prison official confirmed that the man who killed himself was Abderrahim Khayali, 36, who was arrested in Marrakech hours after the women’s bodies were found.

He had left the other men before they murdered the women, and later told the court that he had left out of “regret”. 

But he was found guilty of trying to help the men flee.

Khayali had also appeared alongside the killers in a video in which all four pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

He was originally sentenced to life in prison but the sentence was changed to execution after he appealed.

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.

Morocco has been largely spared deadly jihadist acts since attacks in Casablanca that killed 33 people in 2003 and one in Marrakesh in 2011 that left 17 people dead.

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Denmark to add war crimes to criminal code

Denmark is to give international war crimes a specific paragraph in its criminal code, ending its position as one of the last European countries not to have specific laws on war crimes.

Denmark to add war crimes to criminal code

The government confirmed on Tuesday that it supports a motion by the opposition Socialist People’s Party (SF) to introduce a war crimes paragraph.

“I think it’s important to say first and foremost that war crimes are already illegal in Danish criminal law,” Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard told news wire Ritzau.

“It is not written in as specific clauses in the criminal law, but all offences that are war crimes are criminal,” he said.

“But with all that said, I think that SF has an important point in saying that the time has now come for us to introduce an independent criminalisation of war crimes. I think that would send out an important message to the world, and especially to victims,” he said.

“I will therefore, when the motion is discussed tomorrow [Tuesday, ed.] say, that the government backs criminalising war crimes independently under Danish law,” he said.

Hummelgaard plans to initiate a committee to look into how laws against war crimes can be written and added to the criminal code.

The committee will also consider whether sentences for war crimes should be higher than existing sentences given from crimes such as murder and torture.