Scandinavian hikers murder trial begins in Morocco

Twenty-four people have gone on trial in Morocco over the killing of two Scandinavian tourists in December.

The bodies of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, were found beheaded in the High Atlas mountains.

The defendants are facing charges including forming a terrorist cell.

Three of them are accused of pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group and carrying out the killings. They face the death penalty.

The defendants appeared at a court in Salé, in north-western Morocco, on Thursday. The trial was then adjourned until later this month.

Morocco has had a moratorium on executions since 1993, but death sentences are still occasionally handed down. There have been online petitions calling for anyone convicted of the killings to be executed.

The families of the victims and their lawyers will not attend the trial, according to AFP news agency.

What do we know about the case?

The bodies were found in an isolated area near a popular tourist spot in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains on 17 December.

A video appearing to show the beheading of one of the women was shared widely on social media by IS supporters.

Police in Norway have said that video is almost certainly real. In Denmark, charges have been brought against 14 people suspected of sharing the footage.

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