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British Militant Convicted for Position in Deaths of People

By , in Politics , at April 14, 2022

The decision capped a two-week trial that featured the testimony of former captives who detailed relentless beatings, waterboarding and killings by an Islamic State cell generally known as the Beatles.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A federal jury on Thursday convicted a British militant accused of being a member of the brutal Islamic State cell generally known as the Beatles within the abduction, abuse and deaths of 4 People, a hard-won victory for the households of victims who pressured the federal government to deliver him to justice.

The jury deliberated for a day earlier than discovering El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, responsible on 4 counts of hostage-taking and 4 counts of conspiracy associated to the deaths of three American males and a younger girl who have been captured throughout the Islamic State’s rampage by means of Syria in 2012 and 2013.

Mr. Elsheikh, who faces a number of life sentences, is probably the most distinguished member of the Islamic State to be dropped at trial in america. He was captured in Syria by a Kurdish-backed militia in 2018 as he tried to flee to Turkey.

The decision capped an emotionally charged two-week trial that featured the testimony of 35 witnesses, together with 12 former captives who detailed relentless beatings, sexual abuse, waterboarding and killings perpetrated by a cell of three to 4 radicalized younger Britons, nicknamed the Beatles for his or her accents and sarcastic banter.

“Ten years is a very long time to attend, however we lastly have justice for these 4 courageous People,” mentioned Diane Foley, the mom of a journalist, James Foley, who was beheaded in 2014 by an affiliate of Mr. Elsheikh after being kidnapped in Syria two years earlier.

Marsha Mueller, the mom of Kayla Mueller, an help employee in her 20s who died beneath mysterious circumstances in early 2015 after a yr and a half in captivity, praised the decision. However she mentioned it was exhausting to seek out peace till her daughter’s physique could possibly be recovered in Syria.

“There isn’t actually going to be closure,” Ms. Mueller mentioned. “I’m grateful for what the prosecutors have been in a position to accomplish, however I’m going to maintain looking for Kayla.”

The households of the victims labored for years to safe a conviction, pressuring the Justice Division to beat logistical, authorized and political impediments to deliver to an American courtroom Mr. Elsheikh and an affiliate, Alexanda Kotey, who was captured with him in Syria. In August 2020, William P. Barr, the lawyer basic on the time, agreed to waive the loss of life penalty in opposition to the lads in trade for cooperation from British prosecutors.

The deal was essential: Britain finally shared key proof within the case, together with e mail exchanges between Mr. Elsheikh and his household.

Mr. Kotey, 38, who was a part of the Beatles, pleaded guilty in September to a number of prices, saying that he had performed a vital function within the kidnapping and detention of American prisoners. He’s anticipated to be sentenced this month.

Mr. Elsheikh, who was born in Sudan and raised in London, sat impassively as every responsible verdict was learn, twiddling with a masks that didn’t fairly cowl his mid-length beard.

Prosecutors argued that the well mannered, bespectacled defendant was a central determine within the Islamic State hostage conspiracy, liable for drafting ransom emails and mistreating prisoners. Amongst these captives, they are saying, have been Ms. Mueller and three American males — Mr. Foley, Steven J. Sotloff and Peter Kassig — who have been later beheaded by certainly one of Mr. Elsheikh’s shut associates.

Mr. Elsheikh didn’t deny combating for the Islamic State, however in rebutting the fees, his court-appointed protection group argued that he was not a member of the Beatles and that his purported involvement within the kidnappings was a case of mistaken id provided that the captors usually wore black balaclavas to hide their identities.

After the decision had been delivered, Choose Thomas S. Ellis III, who presided over the trial in Federal District Court docket within the Japanese District of Virginia, mentioned “the central situation” within the case was proving that Mr. Elsheikh was, in reality, a Beatle.

Members of the family of British residents killed by the Islamic State, who listened to the proceedings through phone, celebrated the decision.

“As we speak, an eight-year chapter of ache for my household has lastly come to an finish,” mentioned Mike Haines, whose brother, David Haines, a British help employee, was killed in 2014.

Mr. Haines mentioned he hoped the choice would “act as a warning to anybody else seduced by the false glamour of extremism.”

In his closing remarks on Wednesday, Raj Parekh, the primary assistant U.S. lawyer, requested jurors to pay explicit consideration to the struggling endured by Ms. Mueller. She was not solely bodily abused like the opposite American captives but additionally handled as a slave within the months main as much as her loss of life and sexually assaulted by leaders of the Islamic State, based on testimony supplied within the trial.

Alexandria Sheriff’s Workplace, through Related Press

Mr. Elsheikh has not been immediately implicated within the killings, however his participation in — and data about — quite a few kidnapping, ransom and homicide plots was sufficient to safe a conviction beneath the legislation, prosecutors argued.

The British extremists repeatedly beat the hostages they saved imprisoned in Raqqa, Syria, which the Islamic State claimed as its capital on the time, based on prosecutors. They subjected their hostages to abuses together with waterboarding, mock executions, painful stress positions, meals deprivation, chokeholds that prompted blackouts, electrical shocks and beatings that lasted 20 minutes or longer. In addition they compelled the prisoners to battle each other and to witness killings, courtroom papers mentioned.

In the course of the trial, the federal government launched testimony from freed hostages who detailed the sadism of the cell members. However the hostages have been usually blindfolded and their captors have been cautious to all the time put on masks, making definitive bodily identification troublesome.

The prosecution group relied closely on Mr. Elsheikh’s public feedback about his actions. He gave at the least seven information interviews after being captured by Kurdish forces and turned over to the U.S. army in 2018, disclosing data of key operational particulars and his personal function in searching for to extract thousands and thousands of {dollars} in ransom funds for Western hostages.

In an opinion essay printed in The New York Instances in 2018, the dad and mom of the 4 People killed in Syria mentioned their youngsters would have needed their captors to “be tried in our truthful and open authorized system.”

Now, with the trial full, their battle for justice has develop into a battle to maintain the reminiscences of their youngsters — journalists and humanitarians who sacrificed private security for his or her work — from being forgotten.

Mr. Sotloff’s father, Arthur Sotloff, shrugged when requested if he believed the decision was a vindication.

“I don’t know,” he mentioned after an extended pause. “However I’ll inform you this. I really feel Steven’s presence right here, proper now, within the courtroom.”

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