One of the ‘Beatles’ of the Islamic State, sentenced to life in prison for the beheading of Americans in Syria and Iraq | International
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The kidnappings and murders of journalists and aid workers by the Islamic State, including beheadings recorded on video and broadcast on the internet, shocked the world between 2012 and 2015. This Thursday, one of those responsible for these acts, El Shafee Elsheikh, of the called Beatles of the Islamic State, has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison for this barbarism.
A US federal judge has sentenced Elsheikh to eight life terms for his role in the kidnapping and beheading of four US citizens in Syria and Iraq between 2012 and 2015: journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. Although Elsheikh did not directly carry out the killings, prosecutors maintained that he was involved in them.
The relatives of the victims have attended this Thursday to the reading of the sentence. Judge Thomas S. Ellis has published it on the anniversary of the beheading of journalist James Foley, one of the victims, and has allowed the relatives to intervene. “The hate completely took over your humanity,” said Foley’s mother, Diane, who later broke down in tears. “I pity you. I pray that your time in prison will serve to reflect, ”she added, according to the words collected by Reuters
The prosecutor had ruled out the death penalty as part of a deal with the British authorities to provide evidence and information. Richard Smith, who heads London Police Counter-Terrorism Command, said in a statement: “This is one of the biggest international terrorism cases ever brought to trial. These are some of the most barbaric terrorist acts ever seen, carried out with chilling cruelty and brutality.”
El Shafee Elsheikh, a 33-year-old former British citizen, was already found guilty by a jury last April of four crimes related to the kidnapping plot and as many of conspiracy to murder these citizens after a two-week trial held in Alexandria (Virginia), but the sentence remained to be known.
The Beatles of the Islamic State were thus known mainly for their English accent. It was an especially cruel group. They subjected their prisoners to torture and abuse such as simulated drowning (water boarding) and executions, food deprivation, electric shocks, beatings and suffocation that caused fainting, according to the investigation. Several witnesses recounted these tortures and humiliations during the trial.
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During the trial, El Shafee Elsheikh did not deny being part of the Islamic State, but his lawyers said that he did not belong to that cell, but that it had been an identification mistake.
The cell consisted of Elsheikh, Mohammad Emwazi and Alexandra Kotey. Alexandra Kotey was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year by another US judge. In addition to the deaths of Foley, Sotloff, Kassig and Mueller, they are held responsible for the deaths of four other British and Japanese citizens and the kidnapping and torture of more than two dozen Western hostages, including Spanish journalist Marc Marginedas, a journalist of The newspaper, who participated in the trial as a witness. In addition to Marginedas, Javier Espinosa, from The worldand Ricard García Vilanova, a photojournalist who has collaborated, among other media, with EL PAÍS.
Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were beheaded in 2014 as terrorists videotaped them, only to spread the footage later, adding to the terror and pain. Mueller, a humanitarian worker, was raped and enslaved by the leader of the Islamic State, Abubaker al-Baghdadi. She was murdered and her body was never recovered. Her death was confirmed in 2015. The United States executed Al Baghdadi in 2019 in a military operation called Kayla, by the victim’s name.
a long investigation
Once the sentence is known, the British police have published some details about how the investigations were conducted. “We began our investigation in 2012, after John Cantlie, a British freelance journalist, and American photojournalist James Foley, were kidnapped while in northern Syria,” the London police counter-terrorist chief said in a statement. . “In that first phase, we were not clear about who could be behind the kidnappings. In the following months, other journalists and aid workers were kidnapped in the same region, including two other British citizens: David Haines and Alan Henning”, he added.
According to the police, witness accounts, along with other information and data collected, soon indicated that those involved in the abductions were British citizens, most likely from London, who had traveled to Syria. Detectives dedicated themselves to trying to identify them.
A first breakthrough came when several hostages reported that one of the captors said he had been arrested at a demonstration by the English Defense League in London. Agents identified a stabbing incident at a September 11, 2011, march in which El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey were arrested. A video recorded by an officer showing Elsheikh and Kotey talking to police had been preserved and was played during the trial.
By the end of 2014, agents had strong suspicions that Mohammed Emwazi was the masked man featured in several propaganda videos released by the Islamic State, in which he was seen violently killing hostages.
The telephone evidence collected by the detectives was vital. Data from Elsheikh and Kotey’s phones that had been seized at the time of the 2011 arrests was reviewed, showing messages between them and Emwazi. Emwazi’s phone was seized on another occasion, and Elsheikh’s number had been stored on it. In the Elsheikh and Emwazi cases, the officers used voice recordings to prove that they were part of this group.
“Elsheikh and Kotey thought they were beyond the reach of the law, but they were wrong. I want to acknowledge the tremendous work that prosecutors and colleagues in law enforcement across the United States have done over several years to ensure that justice is served for all of the victims in this case,” Smith said. “Fighting terrorism is a truly global effort, and this case was an example of how we work closely with law enforcement and partners in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to stop terrorists operating anywhere in the world. “, has added.
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