El Shafee Elsheikh was accused of being certainly one of 4 British members of the Islamic State answerable for the torture and killing of Kayla Mueller and three others.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Federal prosecutors concluded their conspiracy and terrorism case towards a British member of the Islamic State on Wednesday with a wrenching account of how an assist employee had been brutalized and sexually assaulted throughout a 12 months and a half in captivity.
For a lot of her ordeal, the help employee, Kayla Mueller, 24, was held by a infamous cell of 4 Islamic State members recognized for his or her viciousness and nicknamed “the Beatles” for his or her British accents, muffled behind black balaclavas.
Prosecutors say the defendant, El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, is “Ringo.” For practically two weeks, they’ve argued that the well mannered, bespectacled defendant was a central determine within the Beatles, answerable for drafting ransom emails and mistreating prisoners. Amongst these captives, they are saying, had been Ms. Mueller and three American males — James Foley, Steven J. Sotloff, and Peter Kassig — who had been later beheaded by certainly one of Mr. Elsheikh’s shut associates.
In his closing remarks, the primary assistant U.S. lawyer, Raj Parekh, requested jurors to pay explicit consideration to the struggling endured by Ms. Mueller, who was not solely bodily abused like the opposite American captives, however handled as a slave within the months main as much as her demise, underneath mysterious circumstances, in early 2015.
“And what about Kayla?” Mr. Parekh requested, as her dad and mom sat stone-faced within the gallery of the ninth-floor courtroom outdoors Washington. “She was held as a slave. She was locked in a room, threatened, raped, by no means allowed to speak along with her household.”
Prosecutors have charged Mr. Elsheikh, who was born in Sudan and raised in London, with 4 counts of conspiracy associated to the kidnapping of Westerners, the homicide of prisoners and his help of terrorist teams. He faces 4 further counts of hostage-taking that resulted within the deaths of Ms. Mueller, Mr. Foley, Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Kassig.
Mr. Elsheikh has not been instantly implicated within the killing of the Individuals, however his participation in, and data about, quite a few kidnapping, ransom and homicide plots is sufficient to safe a conviction underneath the regulation, prosecutors have argued.
The British extremists repeatedly beat the hostages they stored 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 triggered blackouts, electrical shocks and beatings that lasted 20 minutes or longer. Additionally they pressured their hostages to struggle one another and to witness killings, court docket papers stated.
Over the previous two weeks, the federal government has launched testimony from freed hostages who detailed the sadism of the cell members. However the hostages had been typically blindfolded, and their captors had been cautious to all the time put on masks — making definitive bodily identification tough.
The prosecution staff is, due to this fact, leaning closely on Mr. Elsheikh’s personal public feedback about his actions. He gave a minimum of 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 looking for to extract hundreds of thousands in ransom funds for Western hostages.
Close to the top of his summation, Mr. Parekh replayed one interview for the jury, who leaned in to listen to the scratchy audio on a flat-screen TV.
Mr. Elsheikh was requested if he opposed slavery, in mild of Ms. Mueller’s expertise.
“No, I don’t denounce slavery,” he stated.
Prosecutors are cherry-picking proof to compensate for the shortage of a witness who may clearly establish him as a member of the cell, a protection lawyer, Nina J. Ginsberg, stated in her closing argument.
She tried to persuade the jury that Mr. Elsheikh’s interviews in 2018 had been motivated much less by guilt than by concern he could be handed again to the Kurds for a fast trial and abstract execution in Iraq, and that he was making a determined effort to encourage American prosecutors to indict him.
“He grew to become, at the moment, dedicated to repeating these admissions within the hopes of being despatched to the U.S. for a good trial,” Ms. Ginsberg stated.
Mr. Elsheikh’s look in an American courtroom, as soon as seen as an extended shot, is the product of intense political and authorized wrangling. In August 2020, the lawyer normal on the time, William P. Barr, agreed to waive the demise penalty towards Mr. Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, a member of the cell, in trade for cooperation from British prosecutors — seen as a key factor in acquiring a conviction.
Final September, Mr. Kotey, 38, pleaded guilty to multiple charges, together with conspiracy to commit hostage-taking leading to demise and conspiracy to homicide Americans outdoors the USA. As a part of the plea deal, if Mr. Kotey fulfills his cooperation necessities, he could possibly be despatched to Britain after 15 years to finish the rest of a compulsory life sentence.
The households of the American victims, who had gathered briefly for Mr. Kotey’s sentencing final fall, have been current for Mr. Elsheikh’s court docket proceedings, with some testifying about their interactions with the hostage takers.
This week, they gathered in small teams, or slumped towards courtroom partitions throughout breaks, visibly drained by hours of testimony which have included photos and descriptions of their family members’ deaths. The households had pressured Mr. Barr to maneuver shortly on the case, however the effort got here with a value.
“Why didn’t he simply take a deal too?” Carl Mueller, Kayla’s father, requested of Mr. Elsheikh.
“For 2 weeks, we’ve needed to sit right here and dwell by means of all of the grotesque particulars,” he added, his voice strained. “It’s extraordinarily emotional.”