A jury convicted a British nationwide Thursday for his position in an Islamic State group hostage-taking scheme that took roughly two dozen Westerners captive a decade in the past, ensuing within the deaths of 4 Americans, three of whom have been beheaded.
In convicting El Shafee Elsheikh, the jury concluded that he was one of many infamous “Beatles,” Islamic State captors nicknamed for his or her accents and identified for his or her cruelty — torturing and beating prisoners, forcing them to battle one another till they collapsed and even making them sing merciless tune parodies. Surviving hostages testified that the Beatles delighted themselves rewriting “Hotel California” as “Hotel Osama” and making them sing the chorus “You will never leave.”
The responsible discovering got here regardless that not one of the surviving hostages might establish Elsheikh as certainly one of their captors. Although the Beatles had distinctive accents, they at all times took nice care to cover their faces behind masks and ordered hostages to keep away from eye contact or danger a beating.
Prosecutors prompt in opening statements that Elsheikh was the Beatle nicknamed “Ringo” however solely needed to show that Elshiekh was one of many Beatles as a result of testimony confirmed that each one three have been main gamers within the scheme.
Elsheikh, who was captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian protection Forces in 2018, finally confessed his position within the scheme to interrogators in addition to media interviewers, acknowledging that he helped gather electronic mail addresses and offered proof of life to the hostages’ households as a part of ransom negotiations.
But testimony confirmed that he and the opposite Beatles have been way over paper pushers. The surviving hostages, all of whom have been European — the American and British hostages have been all killed — testified that they dreaded the Beatles’ look on the varied prisons to which they consistently shuttled and relocated.
Surviving witness Federico Motka recounted a time in the summertime of 2013 when he and cellmate David Haines have been put in a room with American hostage James Foley and British hostage John Cantlie for what they known as a “Royal Rumble.” The losers have been informed they’d be waterboarded. Weak from starvation, two of the 4 handed out through the hourlong battle.
The jury deliberated for 4 hours earlier than discovering Elsheikh responsible on all counts. Elsheikh stood immobile and gave no seen response as the decision was learn. He now faces as much as a life sentence in jail.
Several victims’ members of the family, who have been current all through all through the three-week trial, fought again tears because the responsible counts have been learn.
“Praise God! I’m so thankful,” mentioned Diane Foley, the mom of James Foley, after the verdicts got here in. “I’m so proud of the American justice system. El Shafee Elsheikh was treated with a great deal of mercy. He had four attorneys. … Hopefully we were able to turn this into justice, not revenge.”
She contrasted what she mentioned was the stellar work of the prosecution with what she mentioned was the inaction of presidency to carry Foley and the opposite Americans dwelling after they have been hostages.
“When we really needed to bring the full force of the government to bear to bring them home, that failed,” she mentioned. “They were abandoned.”
She mentioned she hopes the case brings attentionto the greater than 60 Americans who’re being held hostage or wrongly detained around the globe.
The convictions on all eight counts in U.S. District Court in Alexandria revolved across the deaths of 4 American hostages: Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. All however Mueller have been executed in videotaped beheadings circulated on-line. Mueller was compelled into slavery and raped a number of occasions by Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi earlier than she was killed.
They have been amongst 26 hostages taken captive between 2012 and 2015, when the Islamic State group managed massive swaths of Iraq and Syria.
Defense attorneys acknowledged that Elsheikh joined the Islamic State group however mentioned prosecutors didn’t show he was a Beatle. They cited a scarcity of readability about which Beatle was which, and again within the trial’s opening assertion cited the confusion about whether or not there have been three or 4 Beatles.
Prosecutors mentioned there have been three — Elsheikh and his pals Alexanda Kotey and Mohammed Emwazi, who all knew one another in England earlier than becoming a member of the Islamic State.
Emwazi, who as often called “Jihadi John” and carried out the executions, was later killed in a drone strike. Kotey and Elsheikh have been captured collectively in 2018 and dropped at Virginia in 2020 to face trial after the U.S. promised to not search the loss of life penalty. Kotey pleaded responsible final 12 months in a plea discount that requires a life sentence however leaves open the chance that he might serve out his sentence within the United Kingdom after 15 years within the U.S.
Kotey might be formally sentenced April 29. Elsheikh might be sentenced Aug. 12. But on Thursday the choose within the two instances, T.S. Ellis III, ordered that Elsheikh seem at Kotey’s listening to as nicely in order that he’ll hear sufferer impression testimony that can introduced forward of Kotey’s sentencing.
An earlier model of this story misspelled Alexanda Kotey’s first identify.