By Safaa Kasraoui and Kawtar Ennaji
Rabat – The Court of Appeal in Sale has delivered its verdict on the Imlil double murder case. Abdessamad El Joud, Younes Ouziad, and Rachid Afati, charged with the murder of two Scandinavian tourists, will all face the death penalty.
The sentence comes after two months of court hearings, the first of which began on May 2.
The court further sentenced Abderrahman Khayali to life imprisonment. The remaining 20 defendants were sentenced to between 5 years and 30 years of imprisonment. Kevin Zoller Guervos, the Spanish-Swiss suspect, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In the civil case, the Court declared the claim for compensation, from the Moroccan State for the victims’ families, inadmissible. However, the court ordered that the four main defendants jointly pay MAD 2 million to the relatives of the two victims in compensation.
The four main suspects were charged with murder, incitement to commit terrorist acts, praising terrorism, and promoting extremism.
The court announced the verdict hours after hearing the last of the defendants’ statements. The Spanish-Swiss suspect said, “ I have provided proof; give me back my freedom taken seven months ago.” He added,“I’ve never been extremist; I condemn this awful act.”
The murders of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and Norwegian victim Maren Ueland made international headlines. The public outcry caused international journalists to travel to Morocco in order to follow the case. Police found the bodies of the two victims on December 17, 2018.
Before the verdict, the court was surrounded by police security, lawyers, and police. Morocco World News was at the court where the final hearing for the four main suspects was brief.
Defence lawyer Hafida Maksaoui reminded Morocco World News that the four main defendants had confessed to the crimes they committed. She added that they expressed their regret and asked for God’s mercy for what they had done.
The families of the Danish and Norwegian victims had called for the judge to give the ultimate punishment for the terrible crime; the death penalty.
Capital punishment is not practiced in Morocco, but the lawyer of the victims Khalid El Fataoui has faith in Moroccan justice. He told Morocco World News that he believed that the court would hand the “death penalty” to the suspects.
While capital punishment remains legal in Morocco, no executions have been carried out since 1993.
Suspects families ask for a commuted sentence
The mother of Abdessamad Al Joud, one of the four main suspects, wrote a letter to the court asking for a commuted sentence.
Al Joud is considered the mastermind behind the crime, and faced charges of “forming a gang to commit terror crimes and intentionally assaulting the life of persons premeditatedly.” Charged with several crimes, Al Joud has been prosecuted for inciting people to commit terrorist acts, praising terrorism, as well as promoting extremism.
The mother of Kevin Zoller, Spanish-Swiss suspect maintains that her son was not involved in the crime.
She claimed in a letter submitted to the court that her son came to Morocco to study Islamic religion “that is all.” She claimed that her son is “a victim just like Louisa.”
Prosecution lawyer: I consider them monsters
In response, the lawyer of the victims told the press that the “ [the mothers of the suspects’] letters would not be taken as official letters in the case. “They should have been submitted in previous trials,” he told MWN.
He affirmed that “the presence of both victims’ families show Norway and Denmark’s confidence in Moroccan justice.”
“This proves to what extent Morocco’s judiciary system is independent,” he added.
The victims’ lawyer said that the court was expected to give the death penalty to the main 4 defendants, while the other suspects were expected to receive 20 years in prison.
El Fataoui said that he considers that the defendants “committed atrocious crimes which go against humanity and international law.”
“They are monsters and animals, and I take full responsibility for what I said,” he added.
He also said that the defendants “have not shown any regret; they did not apologize to the families of the victims, but they rather apologized to God.”
The lawyer suspects that “if the defendants were to leave prison, they would definitely reoffend.”
He also recalled that the prosecution team had called on the court to consider that the state should compensate the victims.
“We will have indementities either from this court or the administrative court because the family of Louisa have been suffering everyday,” the lawyer said.