One of the two Swiss citizens recently arrested in Morocco in connection with the murder of two Scandinavian hikers has been sentenced to ten years in prison.
The Swiss man, first name Nicolas, was convicted in Rabat on three counts: participation in a terrorist act, supporting terrorism, and withholding information relating to a crime.
According to Swiss public broadcaster RTS, the news was confirmed on Thursday by the man’s lawyer and family; the Swiss foreign ministry declined to immediately comment.
The conviction comes exactly three months after his arrest in connection with the December 2018 murder and beheading of a 24-year-old Danish student and her 28-year-old Norwegian friend, who had been on holiday in southern Morocco.
Nicolas, whose lawyer intends to appeal the verdict, claims that he does not know the Islamists responsible for the beheadings. Rather, what led to his conviction were his links to jihadist fighters that left Geneva to fight in Syria.
RTS also reported that the 33-year-old convert to Islam had been a regular attendee of the Petit-Saconnex mosque in Geneva until 2017, where he had come to the attention of the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS).
However, the FIS has rejected claims by Nicolas’ lawyer that he received payment in exchange for information gleaned from his mosque attendance.
A dual Swiss-Spanish citizen was also arrested last December in connection with the murders; he was allegedly part of an operation to recruit people to commit terrorist acts in Morocco. No further information has emerged about his trial.
The Moroccan authorities have already arrested 18 people for their alleged links with the double homicide, which they designated a “terrorist incident”.
This includes four main alleged perpetrators, arrested in Marrakech in the days following the killings, and who belonged to a cell inspired by the ideology of the Islamic State.
One, a 25-year-old street vendor, is suspected of being the head of this “terrorist cell”. He can be seen speaking in a video recorded a week before the murder in which the four main suspects pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State.