El Shafee Elsheikh, a member of the infamous Islamic State kidnap-and-murder cell generally known as the “Beatles,” was discovered responsible of all costs on Thursday for the deaths of 4 American hostages in Syria.
A federal jury convicted Elsheikh, 33, a former British nationwide, of eight counts after a two-week trial, essentially the most important prosecution of an IS militant in the US.
Elsheikh was charged with hostage-taking, conspiracy to homicide US residents — journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and help staff Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller — and supporting a terrorist group.
“It is a day that we did not want bombs or bullets to deliver justice,” mentioned Foley’s mom Diane. “I actually really feel that justice prevailed.”
Mueller’s father additionally welcomed the responsible verdicts, delivered after a grueling trial in US District Courtroom in Alexandria close to the capital Washington.
“All of us noticed the American justice system do what it does finest,” mentioned Carl Mueller, whose spouse, Marsha, testified in regards to the ultimately fruitless negotiations with the hostage-takers, who have been demanding 5 million euros in change for his or her daughter.
The 12-person jury deliberated for lower than six hours over two days earlier than reaching the decision.
Elsheikh, bearded and sporting a Covid facemask, didn’t show any seen response because it was learn however a number of kinfolk of the slain American hostages who have been within the public gallery dabbed at their eyes.
Elsheikh and one other former “Beatle,” Alexanda Amon Kotey, 38, have been captured by a Kurdish militia in Syria in January 2018 and handed over to US forces in Iraq.
They have been flown to the US in 2020 to face trial. Kotey pleaded responsible in September 2021 and faces life in jail. He’s to be sentenced on April 29.
Elsheikh, who was stripped of his citizenship by Britain, is to be sentenced on August 12 and in addition faces the prospect of life behind bars.
“The sentence he’ll get might be worse than a dying sentence,” Carl Mueller mentioned, including that he anticipated him to be despatched to the spartan jail generally known as “Supermax” in Colorado.
– ‘Doesn’t deliver again the useless’ –
The query of identification hung over Elsheikh’s trial as a result of the “Beatles” at all times wore masks across the hostages and would blindfold them or drive them to kneel dealing with a wall.
Protection legal professional Nina Ginsberg argued that whereas Elsheikh might certainly have been an IS fighter and the “Beatles” have been accountable for “brutal” acts, prosecutors had not proved he truly was a “Beatle.”
Apart from taking American hostages, Elsheikh and the opposite “Beatles” are accused of abducting some 20 different journalists and reduction staff from Europe, Russia and Japan. A number of have been killed whereas others have been launched for ransoms.
The hostage-takers have been dubbed the “Beatles” by their captives due to their British accents.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors performed media interviews for the jury throughout which Elsheikh acknowledged having interactions with a few of the hostages.
Within the interviews carried out after his seize in Syria, Elsheikh admitted taking e mail addresses and proof of life questions from the captives and acknowledged he didn’t at all times present them “compassion.”
Ginsberg mentioned Elsheikh solely made the admissions to keep away from being despatched to Iraq, the place he would have confronted a abstract trial and execution.
He wished to be despatched to Britain or the US “the place he may get a good trial,” she mentioned.
Nicolas Henin, a former French hostage who testified about his harrowing therapy in captivity, welcomed the decision.
“A terrorist crime opens a gaping wound in a society,” Henin mentioned. “Solely justice can deliver closure to such a monstrous chapter.
“It doesn’t deliver again the useless, it doesn’t heal all of the ache, nevertheless it soothes.”
– ‘Brutal legacy’ –
Ten former European and Syrian hostages testified on the trial accusing the “Beatles” of months of brutal therapy together with beatings, electrical shocks, waterboarding and mock executions.
Foley, Sotloff and Kassig have been beheaded by “Beatle” Mohamed Emwazi, generally known as “Jihadi John,” and movies of their deaths have been launched by IS for propaganda functions.
Mueller was initially held by the “Beatles” however was later turned over to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who reportedly raped her repeatedly.
IS introduced Mueller’s dying in February 2015, IS mentioned she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike, a declare disputed by US authorities.
Baghdadi died throughout a US particular forces raid in 2019. Emwazi was killed by a US drone in Syria in 2015.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Raj Parekh informed the jury the federal government had proved that Elsheikh, Kotey and Emwazi “grew up collectively, radicalized collectively, fought as high-ranking IS fighters collectively and tortured and terrorized hostages collectively.”
“What these horrific crimes left behind is a legacy of brutal killings and shattered households,” Parekh mentioned.