Morocco: Adnane Bouchouf's killer sentenced to death for rape and murder of child
The main suspect in the case of the kidnap and murder of an 11-year-old boy last year in Morocco that sent shockwaves through the country has been sentenced to death.
The case of Adnane Bouchouf provoked national mourning when the young victim was kidnapped in Tangiers after being sent by his family to collect medicine from a pharmacy.
Bouchouf was declared missing by his family on 7 September and his body was discovered four days later buried near his family home.
The Tangier Court of Appeal handed down the death sentence to the perpetrator, who has not been named in the media, on Wednesday over charges of rape, premeditated murder, embezzlement of a minor, sexual abuse and the mutilation of a corpse.
His three flatmates were handed four-month prison sentences each and fined 1,000 Moroccan dirhams ($80) for failing to report the crime.
Cameras from the neighbourhood captured some of the final moments of Bouchouf, who was coaxed into following the 24-year-old perpetrator to his apartment, where he reportedly abused and raped Bouchouf, before taking him to the location near the victim’s home and murdering him.
According to Spain's Euro Weekly News, once the killer, from the city of Ksar el-Kebir in the northwest of Morocco, knew people were looking for the child he went to a barber to attempt to change his appearance. Despite this he was identified by the police.
While on trial, he claimed he did not rape the boy and was not planning to kill him, but had kidnapped him only for money, Euro Weekly News said. The killer reportedly sent a message to the victim’s father asking for a ransom.
'Culprit got what he deserves'
Bouchouf’s murderer became acquainted with the victim after frequenting the Bouchouf family restaurant.
According to Article 474 of Morocco’s penal code, the kidnapping of a minor is punishable by death if the victim is murdered.
Speaking to local media, Bouchouf’s father said he was satisfied with the verdict and described the death penalty as the “right decision”.
“The culprit got what he deserves,” he said.
Morocco has not carried out any executions since 1993. However, the North African state has handed down death sentences since then, with at least 10 individuals sentenced to death in 2018 and more than 93 still on death row.
In November, Morocco’s National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) called on Moroccan authorities to vote against the death penalty at the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.
The CNDH has repeatedly called for the removal of the death penalty from the penal code. Morocco’s latest constitution, passed in 2011, states that the law protects “the right to life [as] the first right of any human being”.
Between 2000 and 2019, 119 death row prisoners received a royal pardon and their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment or fixed-term sentences.
King decrys 'heinous crime'
A few days after Adnane’s body was discovered, Morocco's King Mohammed VI condemned the "heinous crime" and offered his condolences to the victim’s family.
“Your innocent son was a victim, and we share with you and all Moroccan families who have sympathised with you, the magnitude of this cruel loss,” he said.
A number of senior officials, including Mohamed Amhidia, the governor of Tangier, along with Abd al-Rahman, the regional representative of the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, visited the family to offer their condolences last year.
Shortly after the details of Adnane’s murder surfaced, a petition, which reached 400,000 signatures in three days, was set up calling for the death penalty to be imposed on the accused in order to deter others from committing similar crimes.
At the time, Omar al-Kazabri, the imam at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, defended Moroccans calling for the death penalty, saying it was a fitting punishment for the suspect.
Opposition to death penalty
A number of NGOs in the country have long denounced sentences against sexual predators that they consider too lenient.
A viral social media campaign using the hashtags "justice for Adnane" and "execution for Adnane's killer" provoked an outpouring of sympathy for the victim in Morocco and abroad.
"This is heartbreaking. I can’t even begin to imagine what he might have gone through," one user tweeted. "We demand justice for his family and parents."
However, not all Moroccans were in support of carrying out the death penalty.
Activist Ahmed Assid sparked controversy when he described those calling for the death penalty as “no less brutal than the monster they want revenge against”.
The same month of Bouchouf’s murder, a court in Tangier sentenced a couple to death for their involvement in the murder of a seven-year-old child in Larache in 2019.
The cases renewed calls for officials to do more to protect children and to help those reported missing.
Hands off My Child, a Moroccan NGO, urged authorities to activate an Alert-Abduction system as part of measures to ensure better child protection and to “save several children's lives”.