A lawyer for the family of a Danish tourist who was found killed last year along with a Norwegian hiker, on Thursday asked the Moroccan state to guarantee compensation payments for the families of the Scandinavian victims. Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway were found decapitated on Dec. 17 near the village of Imlil, a hiking and trekking destination in the Atlas Mountains.
The judge presiding the trial of suspects in the killings approved the lawyer's request to issue a summons to the Moroccan state, over the objections of the public prosecutor. The state is expected to send a representative to a hearing scheduled for May 30. "We pushed for summoning the state as a party to this trial to guarantee the payment of the compensation for the families of the victims because the suspects are unable to do that," lawyer Lhoucine Raji told Reuters.
"The state is responsible for the security of citizens and tourists on its soil. Some of the suspects were former inmates and the state should have made sure that they were integrated and deradicalized when they left prison," Raji said. The family of the Norwegian victim did not hire a lawyer.
The four main suspects pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video made three days before the tourists' bodies were found. Authorities described them after they were arrested as "lone wolves" who had not coordinated the killings with Islamic State. The other 20 defendants, including a Spanish-Swiss convert to Islam, were later arrested as part of a wider sweep of people the Moroccan authorities believed had links to the main suspects.
The 24 suspects face charges including forming a criminal gang to commit terrorist acts, encouraging terrorism and undermining public order. Compared with other countries in North Africa, Morocco has been largely insulated from militant attacks. The most recent took place in April 2011, when 17 people were killed in the bombing of a restaurant in Marrakech. In 2017 and 2018, Morocco dismantled 20 militant cells planning attacks in the country.
(With inputs from agencies.)