El Shafee Elsheikh, who was officially sentenced to life in prison for playing a leading role in the beheading death of American hostages, had a somewhat fanciful nickname of self-styled “Beatle” which belied the villainy of his conduct.
In fact, he is the most notorious and high-ranking member of the Islamic State group to ever be convicted in a US court, prosecutors said during his sentencing hearing in US District Court in Alexandria Friday.
Elsheikh and their British counterparts Alexanda Kotey and Mohammed Emwazi led an Islamic State hostage-taking program that captured around two dozen Westerners a decade ago.
The hostages nicknamed them the Beatles because of their accents. Their appearance, always masked, aroused terror among the hostages for the sadism they displayed.
“This prosecution has unmasked the barbaric and sadistic Beatles of ISIS,” said first assistant US attorney Raj Parekh.
The life sentence was up for grabs after a jury found him guilty of taking hostages resulting in death and other crimes earlier this year.
The convictions carried a mandatory life sentence. The United States agreed not to pursue the death sentence as part of a deal guaranteeing the extradition of Elsheikh and his friend, Kotey, who has already been sentenced to life. Emwazi was killed in a drone strike.
The convictions revolved around the deaths of four American hostages: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. All but Mueller were executed in videotaped beheadings released online.
Mueller was enslaved and repeatedly raped by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before being killed.
They were among 26 hostages captured between 2012 and 2015, when the Islamic State group controlled large swaths of Iraq and Syria.
Parekh said it was difficult to convey the brutality of Elsheikh’s actions. “We don’t have the vocabulary for such pain,” he said, paraphrasing Dante’s Inferno.
Yet the victims of Elsheikh and The Beatles testified at Friday’s hearing and expressed what they went through.
Danish photographer Daniel Rye Ottosen, who was released after paying a ransom, said the worst moments were the moments of silence during and after captivity when he was alone with his thoughts.
He said when Elsheikh and the Beatles beat him, it was almost a relief.
“I knew I could only focus on my pain, which is much easier than being alone with your thoughts,” he said.
Ottosen was particularly close to Foley and memorized a farewell letter Foley wrote to his family so he could dictate it to Foley’s parents when he was released.
Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, said holding Elsheikh accountable at trial sends a deterrent message to other potential hostage takers.
“Hate has really overwhelmed your humanity,” she told Elsheikh on Friday, on the eighth anniversary of James Foley’s beheading.
At trial, the surviving hostages testified that they dreaded the appearance of the Beatles in the various prisons to which they were constantly transferred and transferred.
Elsheikh and the other Beatles played a key role in the hostage negotiations, causing the hostages to email their families with demands for payment.
They also regularly beat and tortured the hostages, forcing them to fight to the point of fainting, threatening them with waterboarding, and forcing them to see footage of slain hostages.
Elsheikh, 34, did not speak at Friday’s hearing. His attorney, Zachary Deubler, said Elsheikh would appeal his conviction.
Elsheikh’s lawyers had argued that his confession should have been ruled inadmissible due to alleged ill-treatment after his capture by the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces in 2018.
In Friday’s hearing, Deubler limited his arguments to a request that Elsheikh not be sent to the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where he would face solitary confinement for the rest of his term. life.
Deubler said a Florence designation is almost a certainty unless the judge recommends otherwise.
Judge TS Ellis III declined to make recommendations to the Bureau of Prisons.
“The behavior of this defendant and his co-defendant can only be described as horrible, barbaric, brutal, callous and, of course, criminal,” Ellis said.
Outside of court, Mueller’s parents said they are still seeking information about his death and to collect his remains.
Carl Mueller said he couldn’t help but reflect on the disparate results for the European hostages – who were freed after the ransoms were paid – and the American hostages who were killed because the United States refuses to pay a ransom.
“I hope our government in the future will do like so many others, and bring them home, not leave them,” he said.
Both the Muellers and Diane Foley said they were able to meet with Kotey, whose guilty plea requires him to meet with interested families. Marsha Mueller declined to comment on her conversation.
Dian Foley said she had met Kotey three times and it had been good for her.
“I was able to share some of who Jim was and he was able to share some of the reasons he thought it was a war situation and his apologies,” Foley said. “But he expressed remorse and I was grateful for that.”
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)