Bottom Line Up Front
- El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, two ISIS members known as ‘The Beatles,’ will face justice in the United States for their alleged crimes.
- Attorney General William Barr promised the UK government that Elsheikh and Kotey would not face the death penalty if transferred to U.S. custody.
- This decision is a result of years of investigations and international efforts, and a significant victory toward justice for the families of ISIS hostages.
- If found guilty and convicted, the terrorists will likely serve their sentences at the U.S. Administrative Maximum Prison in Florence, Colorado.
El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, ISIS terrorists known as ‘The Beatles,’ were indicted by U.S. prosecutors this week for crimes that they are alleged to have committed while working as prison guards in Syria. Elsheikh and Kotey gained a reputation as among the most sadistic and brutal members of the so-called Islamic State, purportedly playing a role in the detention, torture (both physical and psychological), and execution of Western journalists and humanitarian aid workers. These individuals were transferred from Iraq to the United States to face charges of hostage-taking resulting in death and conspiracy to murder outside the United States. Since their capture Elsheikh and Kotey have been held in U.S. military custody in Iraq. The ISIS terrorists face numerous charges for their role in the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and humanitarian aid worker Peter Kassig. Elsheikh and Kotey are also thought to have played a role in the murder of British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning. In total, it is believed that ‘The Beatles’ played a role in the death of at least 27 people.
This summer, U.S. Attorney General William Barr made a pledge to the British government that if Elsheikh and Kotey were transferred to U.S. custody, they would be spared the death penalty, which the United Kingdom opposes. This promise cleared the way for the transfer of the terrorist suspects to the United States following years of back and forth negotiations between Washington and London. Families of the victims have also requested that Elsheikh and Kotey not be held in Guantanamo Bay, but face justice in a federal court in the United States instead. The military commissions trial system at Guantanamo has been plagued by severe delays, legal issues, and other bureaucratic inefficiencies that have severely impeded justice. The British government has been assisting the United States with providing evidence that can be used to prosecute the ISIS terrorists. If there is a trial in the United States, it will likely feature testimony from European hostages imprisoned by ISIS and with firsthand knowledge of the actions of Elsheikh and Kotey.
In an interview with NBC, Elsheikh and Kotey admitted to their role in the detention of Kayla Mueller, the American humanitarian aid worker taken hostage by ISIS, tortured, beaten and killed at the hands of terrorists in 2015. The two other members of the so-called ‘Beatles’ were Mohammed Emwazi, also known as ‘Jihadi John,’ and Aine Davis. Emwazi was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2015, while Davis was allegedly captured in Turkey, though little is known about his current status. Elsheikh and Kotey have been stripped of their citizenship by the United Kingdom, and Elsheikh’s mother filed a lawsuit in the UK to challenge the government’s decision to allow him to stand trial in the United States. The so-called ‘Beatles’ engaged in numerous acts of torture, subjecting their victims to waterboarding, mock executions, and electric shocks, among other heinous acts.
These actions – both the arrival of Kotey and Elsheikh to the United States and their civilian prosecution – are the result of years of investigations and international efforts, notably thanks to a mutual legal assistance treaty and ongoing diplomatic efforts. The decision is a significant victory toward justice, not just for the families of the hostages but for other hostages and individuals victimized by ISIS over time. In total, as announced by FBI Director Christopher Wray at a press conference yesterday, Kotey and Elsheikh will face eight criminal charges, including conspiracy, hostage-taking, and providing material support for a terrorist organization. The material support charge alone could put the duo behind bars for upwards of two decades. It is expected that the trial could also unveil new information and potential evidence about other ISIS acts of terrorism and hostage-taking, including detention facilities where other hostages were held. If convicted and found guilty, the terrorists will likely serve their sentences at the U.S. Administrative Maximum Prison in Florence, Colorado, also known as the ‘Supermax.’