One of the members of a group of kidnappers from the Islamic State (IS) organization, dubbed the “Beatles”, was sentenced on Friday April 29 to life imprisonment by a federal court in the United States. Alexanda Kotey, 38, a former British national, pleaded guilty in September, admitting responsibility for the deaths of four American hostages in Syria and the kidnapping and torture of around 20 Westerners.
Also a member of this cell, El Shafee El-Sheikh, arrested with him by Syrian Kurdish forces in 2018, was found guilty in April after a grueling trial which exposed their sadism in broad daylight. His sentence will be handed down on August 12.
The two men, for whom the death penalty was excluded due to an agreement with London, were present on Friday in the court in Alexandria, near Washington, where the relatives of their victims were able to speak directly to them.
“You have kidnapped, tortured and participated in the murders of good and innocent people, and you will now have to live with this all your life”launched the Briton Bethany Haines, daughter of one of the victims. “You both lost!” »added the young woman, whose father, David Haines, an aid worker, was beheaded by the third member of the “Beatles”, Mohammed Emwazi, killed by a drone attack in 2015.
This nickname had been given to the three jihadists, who grew up and became radicalized in London, by their hostages because of their British accent. They left for Syria in 2012. Alexanda Kotey explained in a statement that he joined ISIS to fight against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad believing that “the Islamic concept of armed jihad was of great value and a legitimate cause”.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee El-Sheikh were extradited to the United States from Iraq in October 2020 to appear before American justice. They were captured in January 2018 by Syrian Kurdish forces and then handed over to the US military in Iraq.
Active in Syria from 2012 to 2015, they supervised the detention of at least twenty-seven journalists and humanitarian workers from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Japan, New Zealand and Russia. A dozen were executed and their deaths were staged in IS propaganda videos that shocked the world.
Among their victims was the American journalist Steven Sotloff. On Friday, his mother, Shirley, repeatedly urged the two jihadists to “look at her [les] eyes “as she described “the unimaginable impact” of their actions on his family. “Steven’s death was like a horror movie broadcast live around the world (…) For our family, it doesn’t happen on a screen but in our heads, every day.”she explained to them, hoping that they will “think every day about the rest of their lives”.
Marsha Mueller, whose daughter Kayla died in confused circumstances after being the sex slave of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, wished they would help her understand what happened to her daughter: “We learned certain things, stories of rape, beatings, terror and horror. But I want to know the whole truth, even if it’s hard to hear (…) I need to experience these horrors with her. »
The alleged leader of this jihadist cell, Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed “Jihadi John”, who had distinguished himself by appearing dressed all in black, a butcher’s knife in his hand, on propaganda videos, had been killed during a American bombing of Syria in November 2015. As for the fourth “Beatles”, Aine Davis, he is being held in Turkey. He was convicted of terrorism in 2017.