Survivor testifies in trial of ISIS member accused of killing several Americans

On the second day of the trial, Italian aid worker Federico Motka told jurors how he was captured, imprisoned and tortured by a terrorist cell along with other hostages who were eventually killed, including Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Kayla Mueller and Peter Cassig.
The so-called “Beatles” – as the hostages came to call them because of their British accent – were the main hostage handlers, and according to the Justice Department, Elsheikh is the last of the group to stand trial. His co-defendant pleaded guilty in September, and another participant, Mohamed Emwazi, was killed in a drone strike in 2015.

Motka told jurors that in 2013 he was captured along with British aid worker David Haynes on a trip to Syria to better understand the needs of refugees in the area.

“I think we are being kidnapped,” Motka told his boss over the phone as masked men armed with guns surrounded their car, eventually pulling them out and stuffing them into the trunk.

During the 14 months he was in captivity, Motk was moved to several different locations, one of which was a small, low-roofed room nicknamed “The Box” by the hostages. It was there that they experienced what Motka called “punishment mode”.

Beatings, hunger and execution

The Beatles, along with what the hostages called “The Punisher,” beat and tortured Haynes, Motka, journalist Foley – one of the Americans involved in the allegations against Elsheikh – and his colleague, British journalist John Cantley.

Motka said the group distinguished the Beatles – whom they called John, George and Ringo – by their preferred beating style.

“George was more into boxing. John, he kicked a lot,” Motka said, adding that Ringo, who prosecutors say is Elsheikh, “loved wrestling (and) headlocks.” One such headbutt knocked Foley unconscious, Motka said on Thursday.

According to Motka, the Beatles regularly kicked, punched, and cabled hostages and forced them to “stretch stress positions for hours.” They were also forced, according to Motka, to fight each other for fun.

“We barely had enough muscle strength to lift our arms,” Motka said.

According to Motka, the Beatles drenched him and several other hostages with water. “It was the worst thing that could have happened,” he said after describing the loss of oxygen, inhalation of water and panic. “There was not a moment of peace.”

According to Motka, the hostages lost between 50 and 70 pounds by the time they were waterboarded, and later became completely emaciated. When they got food, they couldn’t keep it. According to his testimony, during one long journey in an ISIS van, hostages survived for several days in the back of a truck.

The courtroom also showed a video of a Syrian hostage being shot in the head, kneeling at the edge of a pre-dug grave.

Motka identified himself among a group of hostages who were kneeling on the other side of the grave, each holding handwritten placards demanding a ransom for their release.

One of the Beatles, Motka testified, asked him what he thought of the execution.

“It’s terrible,” Motka said.

The Beatles, according to Motk, replied, “That’s a good answer.”

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