A member of the notorious Islamic State kidnapping and murder cell known as the “Beatles” was sentenced to life in prison in a US court on Friday for the deaths of four US hostages in Syria.
El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, was sentenced to eight life terms without the possibility of parole after being found guilty in April of taking hostages, conspiring to assassinate US citizens and supporting a terrorist organization.
Judge TS Ellis, who handed down the sentence in a US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, said Elsheikh’s conduct “can only be described as horrific, barbaric, brutal, callous and, of course, criminal. “.
Elsheikh, wearing large glasses, a black Covid mask and a dark green prison jumpsuit with “Alexandria Inmate” on the back, was visibly unresponsive and refused to speak in court.
The former British national’s trial, which featured moving testimony from former hostages and relatives of the murdered Americans, was the most significant prosecution of an ISIS terrorist in the United States.
Diane Foley, mother of murdered hostage James Foley, addressed Elsheikh and the court and noted that Friday was the eighth anniversary of her son’s “terrifying beheading”.
“You have been held accountable for your depravity,” Foley told Elsheikh. “You have lost your country, your citizenship, your freedom and your family.
“Love is much stronger than hate,” she added. “I pity you, Elsheikh, for choosing hatred.”
The jury deliberated for less than six hours after a two-week trial before finding Elsheikh guilty of his role in the deaths of four Americans – journalists Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller .
Elsheikh and another former “Beatle”, Alexanda Kotey, were captured by a Kurdish militia in Syria in January 2018 and handed over to US forces in Iraq.
They were flown to the United States in 2020 for trial.
Kotey, 38, pleaded guilty in September 2021 and was sentenced to life in prison in April.
– ‘Barbarian and sadistic’ –
Another alleged ‘Beatle’, Aine Davis, 38, has been deported from Turkey to Britain and remanded in custody on charges of terrorism.
The fourth in the group, executioner Mohammed Emwazi, was killed by a US drone in Syria in November 2015.
The hostage takers, who grew up and became radicalized in London, were nicknamed the “Beatles” by their captives because of their distinctive British accents.
Active in Syria from 2012 to 2015, they kidnapped more than two dozen journalists and aid workers from the United States and other countries.
Ten former European and Syrian hostages testified at Elsheikh’s trial accusing the “Beatles” of months of brutal treatment, including beatings, electric shocks, mock executions.
“This prosecution has exposed the barbaric and sadistic Beatles of ISIS,” Assistant US Attorney Raj Parekh said during Friday’s sentencing.
“Elsheikh remains resolutely ruthless and unrepentant,” Parekh added.
Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were beheaded by Emwazi, and videos of their deaths were released by ISIS for propaganda purposes.
Mueller was first detained by the “Beatles”, but was later handed over to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who allegedly raped her repeatedly.
ISIS announced Mueller’s death in February 2015. The group said she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike, a claim disputed by US authorities.
Baghdadi died in a raid by US special forces in 2019.
Carl Mueller, Kayla’s father, welcomed Elsheikh’s life sentence, saying “I think the sentence fits the crime”.
“He will spend the rest of his life in a cell,” he said.
Zachary Deubler, an attorney for Elsheikh, asked Judge Ellis to recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Elsheikh not be sent to the Florence, Colorado prison known as “Supermax”.
The judge refused to do so.
Deubler also said Elsheikh intended to appeal the verdict on the grounds of “ineffective counsel”.
Richard Smith, head of London Police’s counter-terrorism unit, welcomed the sentencing and said: “Elsheikh and Kotey thought they were beyond the reach of the law, but they were wrong.”
FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said the case should serve as a warning that “those who kill or injure our citizens cannot hide forever”.
“The FBI and our partners in the US government will work tirelessly to bring them to justice,” Abbate said.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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