efe-epaSalé, Morocco

Three terrorists who beheaded two Scandinavian tourists in the Atlas Mountains have been sentenced to death.

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, were found murdered in their tent in Morocco in December.

Abdessamad Ejjoud, a 25-year-old street seller, carpenters Younes Ouaziyad, 27, and Rachid Afatti, 33, had all sworn allegiance to the so-called Islamic State before carrying out the brutal killings.

The trio were given the death penalty at a court in Salé, near the city of Rabat, on Thursday.

All three had previously confessed to the murder of the two women, who were mountaineering in the village of Imlil, near Mount Toubkal, the highest peak of the range in north Africa.

Another 21 defendants were also convicted for varying degrees of involvement in the crimes and were handed sentences of between five years and life imprisonment.

The main charges included terrorist offences, possession and use of weapons and attempts to manufacture explosives.

Judge Abdellatif Amrani passed sentence after three hours of deliberations and read his ruling to a silent courtroom, having warned that he would not tolerate any disturbances.

The three killers were also ordered to pay two million dirhams (around $225,000) compensation to the families of the victims, although they are unlikely to be able to do so given their poor economic circumstances.

The defendants listened to the sentence quietly and left the room in groups, while some of their relatives could not hold back tears.

Four of the main offenders appeared remorseful for their actions and said: "May God forgive us".

The other 20 had tried to disassociate themselves from them but did not deny their extremist ideology.

The judge denied a request from the defence to order a psychological expert opinion for the defendants over alleged psychological disorders.

The parties have ten days to appeal the sentence.

Despite the death sentences, it is unlikely that the three main defendants will be executed, since there is a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in Morocco, with the last execution carried out in 1993.

Despite this fact, the Penal Code states that ten crimes are punishable by the death penalty. EFE-EPA