A British member of the militant organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has been convicted on all counts by a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, for having a role in a deadly kidnapping that resulted in the deaths of four Americans.
El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, was found guilty of all eight charges, including four counts of murder conspiracy, hostage-taking resulting in death and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization, following an 11-day trial that ended on Thursday.
Elsheikh, Kotey and Mohammed Emwazi, the group’s ringleader who died during an airstrike in Syria in 2015, were collectively known as the “Beatles” for their British accents. An alleged fourth member of the group, Aine Davis, remains imprisoned in Turkey.
Elsheikh was the group’s highest-profile IS member and the only member to go on trial in the U.S.
The group was accused of holding 26 hostages in Syria, which resulted in the beheadings of four Americans, including journalists James Foley and Steven Sotlof, as well as aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig. The group was also accused of beheading British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, as well as Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. Some of the victims’ beheadings were broadcast on social media in 2014.
“Elsheikh and two other ISIS members supervised the terrorist organization’s jails and detention facilities at which the hostages were held,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release. “Elsheikh and his co-conspirators engaged in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against hostages that was meant as an effort to subdue the hostages.”
The group informed Mueller’s family about her death in an email in February 2015, the Department of Justice said. However, prosecutors claimed on Wednesday that the group held the American aid worker hostage for around a year and a half, treating her as a slave and sexually abusing her.
While Elsheikh was not accused of carrying out the killings, he was charged for helping with the kidnappings of the hostages that led to their deaths.
Nina Ginsberg, Elsheikh’s defense attorney, did not deny at the trial that the man joined ISIS in Syria or that he knew the other members of the group. She argued, however, that none of the former hostages identified Elsheikh in the courtroom, and there was no evidence provided by the government to show he was part of the Beatles. Ginsberg claimed that he was solely an ISIS soldier.
Elsheikh, who faces life in prison, is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 12, while Kotey’s sentencing will be on April 29.
“This has been quite an ordeal. Truly exhausting for many families. Emotionally exhausting and physically,” Diane Foley, James Foley’s mother, told reporters. “I would hope these four young Americans would inspire other young Americans to have that kind of courage. That moral courage to dare to go out in the world, care about others, report the truth.”
“This is a small piece of justice that will help us heal a little, but I don’t think there will ever be closure,” Carl Mueller, Kayla Mueller’s father, said after the verdict. “We are all close. I refer to it many times as a club that nobody wants to be in. Due to circumstances out of our control, we are in this club.”
Feature Image via ITV News