Alexandria, United States:
A member of the infamous Islamic State kidnapping and murder cell known as the “Beatles” was sentenced to life in prison by a US court on Friday for the deaths of four American hostages in Syria.
El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, was sentenced to eight concurrent life sentences with no chance of parole after being convicted in April of kidnapping, conspiracy to murder American citizens and supporting a terrorist organization.
Judge TS Ellis, who delivered the sentence in a US court in Alexandria, Virginia, said Elsheikh’s behavior “can only be described as horrific, barbaric, brutal, insensitive and, of course, criminal.”
Elsheikh, who wore large glasses, a black Covid face mask and a dark green prison suit with “Alexandria Inmate” on the back, did not visibly respond and declined the opportunity to speak to the court.
The trial of the former British citizen, with emotional testimonies from former hostages and parents of the murdered Americans, was the largest prosecution of an IS terrorist in the United States.
Diane Foley, mother of murdered hostage James Foley, addressed Elsheikh and the court, noting that Friday was the eighth anniversary of her son’s “gruesome beheading.”
“You’ve been held responsible for your wickedness,” 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 hate.”
The jury deliberated for less than six hours at the end of a two-week trial before Elsheikh was found 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 to stand trial.
Kotey, 38, pleaded guilty in September 2021 and was sentenced to life in prison in April.
– ‘Barbaric and sadistic’ –
Another alleged “Beatle”, Aine Davis, 38, has been deported to Britain from Turkey and taken into custody on terrorism charges.
The fourth in the group, executioner Mohammed Emwazi, was killed by a US drone in Syria in November 2015.
Growing up and radicalizing in London, the hostage takers were nicknamed the “Beatles” by their inmates because of their distinctive British accents.
They were active in Syria from 2012 to 2015, kidnapping more than two dozen journalists and aid workers from the United States and other countries.
Ten former European and Syrian hostages testified at the Elsheikh trial, accusing the “Beatles” of months of brutal treatment, including beatings, electric shocks, waterboarding and mock executions.
“This persecution has exposed the barbaric and sadistic IS Beatles,” assistant attorney Raj Parekh said during the sentencing on Friday.
“Elsheikh remains defiantly ruthless and unrepentant,” Parekh added.
Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were beheaded by Emwazi, and videos of their deaths were released by IS for propaganda purposes.
Mueller was initially detained by the “Beatles”, but was later handed over to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who allegedly raped her repeatedly.
IS announced Mueller’s death in February 2015. The group said it was killed in a Jordanian airstrike, a claim disputed by US authorities.
Baghdadi died in 2019 during a US special forces raid.
Carl Mueller, Kayla’s father, welcomed the life sentence for Elsheikh, saying, “I think the punishment 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 that the Bureau of Prisons not send Elsheikh to a prison in Florence, Colorado, known as “Supermax.”
The judge refused.
Deubler also said Elsheikh plans to appeal the verdict on grounds of “ineffective counsel”.
Richard Smith, head of the London Police Counter-Terrorism Unit, welcomed the verdict, saying: “Elsheikh and Kotey thought they were out of 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 throughout the US government will work relentlessly to bring them to justice,” Abbate said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)