ISIS Beatles member sentenced to eight life sentences for involvement in hostage-taking and murder of Americans

Elsheikh was sentenced to eight simultaneous life sentences in a Virginia courtroom on the eighth anniversary of the brutal beheading of one of his victims: American journalist James Foley.
Elsheikh and another cell member, Alexandra Kotey, were indicted in October 2020 on eight counts of involvement in the hostage-taking and murders of Foley, American journalist Steven Sotloff, American aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, and British and Japanese citizens. . Elsheikh was convicted in April.

Speaking to the press after the verdict, Diane Foley, mother of James Foley, said she was grateful for the verdict but called it “an empty victory.”

“Our country has lost four of its best citizens. We families have lost our loved ones forever,” she said.

“As harsh, sadistic and extremely reprehensible as can be”

During Elsheikh’s two-week trial, former hostages testified about the harsh conditions, beatings, starvation and torture they suffered at the hands of ISIS members. A Justice Department press release notes that “According to evidence presented during the trial, in addition to physical and psychological abuse of the hostages, Elsheikh and his accomplices were involved in forcibly exposing hostages to kill other hostages held by ISIS.”

“From August 2014 to October 2014, ISIS published videos depicting the beheadings of James Foley, Stephen Sotloff and British citizens David Haynes and Alan Henning,” the report said. “In November 2014, ISIS released a video showing the decapitated head of Peter Kassig.”

“In January 2015, ISIS released videos showing the decapitation of Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa and the beheading of Japanese citizen Kenji Goto. Around February 7, 2015, Kayla Mueller’s family received an email from ISIS confirming Mueller’s death in Syria. said.

At the time of Friday’s sentencing, the US government advocated eight consecutive life sentences, noting that the crimes committed by ISIS members are “as grave, sadistic and highly reprehensible as can be.”

“As forensic evidence has shown, Elsheikh, Emwazi and Kotei helped run a network of at least nine detention centers that held 26 civilian hostages from 12 countries in Syria,” said Raj Parekh, First Assistant U.S. Attorney. exemption from the Department of Justice.

“These vicious acts of terrorism against the world sow carnage and fear and cause deep despair. And, as we sadly know, these devastating crimes have resulted in the deaths of at least eight US, British and Japanese citizens, including horrific beheadings. which have been made public on a global scale and perversely advertised by ISIS propaganda,” Parekh said.

“Instead of being martyred for their monstrous deed, Elsheikh and Kotey were justly and impartially condemned in an open courtroom for their barbaric crimes,” he added.

Elsheikh and Kotey, whose British citizenship was revoked due to their ISIS membership, were captured together by the Syrian Democratic Forces while trying to flee to Turkey in January 2018. Then-Attorney General William Barr negotiated with the UK to extradite the couple to Syria. United States for prosecution, abolishing the death penalty as considerations for sentencing.

Kotei pleaded guilty in September and was sentenced to eight life sentences at the same time earlier this year. A third member of the cell, Mohamed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John”, was killed in a drone strike in 2015.

“The punishment fits the crime”

FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said in a statement that Elsheikh’s sentencing “demonstrates that those who kill or injure our citizens cannot hide forever.”

Karl Müller, Kayla Müller’s father, told the press after the verdict that he thought “in this case, the punishment fits the crime.”

“He will spend the rest of his days in a cell and have time to think about what he did,” Mueller said. “And it’s also a deterrent for others not to do this kind of thing.”

Karl Mueller said the family is still trying to figure out exactly what happened to his daughter, who ISIS claims was killed in a Jordanian airstrike in Raqqa.

“We want to bring her home. We want to send her to American soil where she belongs,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional backlash and backstory.

Hannah Rabinowitz of CNN contributed to the story.

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