A jury started deliberations Wednesday within the trial of El Shafee Elsheikh, a former British nationwide who went to Syria to hitch the Islamic State and allegedly turned a member of the infamous kidnap-and-murder cell often known as the “Beatles.”
Wrapping up the federal government’s case, prosecutor Raj Parekh mentioned it had been confirmed “past any shadow of a doubt” that Elsheikh was one of many hostage-takers dubbed the “Beatles” by their captives due to their British accents.
Protection lawyer Nina Ginsberg countered that whereas the 33-year-old Elsheikh might certainly have been an IS fighter, prosecutors had not proved he truly was a “Beatle.”
Elsheikh, who was stripped of his citizenship by Britain, is charged with the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid staff Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.
He and the opposite “Beatles” are suspected of involvement within the kidnapping in Syria of some 20 different journalists and aid staff from Europe, Russia and Japan.
The query of identification hung heavy over Elsheikh’s two-week trial in a US District Courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia.
“There is no such thing as a forensic proof linking Mr Elsheikh to any of the places the place the hostages have been held,” Ginsberg mentioned.
She famous that not one of the 10 former European and Syrian hostages who testified about their harrowing therapy was requested to determine the defendant in court docket.
“Mr Elsheikh was not recognized on this courtroom by any of the previous hostages,” Ginsberg mentioned. “What folks would in all probability name the white elephant on this room.”
She mentioned the “Beatles” have been liable for “brutal” and “loathsome” acts however insisted Elsheikh was not certainly one of them.
“You could discover him responsible of offering materials help to a terrorist group,” Ginsberg mentioned, one of many prices Elsheikh is going through.
“However for the opposite counts you should discover that he was a member of the ‘Beatles,'” she mentioned. “We submit you possibly can’t.”
Parekh, the assistant US lawyer, mentioned that quite the opposite, the federal government had “proved past any shadow of a doubt that Elsheikh is among the IS ‘Beatles.'”
“He openly informed you so himself,” Parekh mentioned in a reference to media interviews performed for the 12-person jury throughout which Elsheikh described his interactions with the hostages.
The interviews with Western media retailers have been carried out after Elsheikh and one other former British nationwide, Alexanda Amon Kotey, have been captured by a Kurdish militia in Syria in January 2018.
They have been handed over to US forces in Iraq and flown to america in 2020 to face prices of hostage-taking, conspiracy to homicide US residents and supporting a terrorist group.
Kotey pleaded responsible in September 2021 and is going through life in jail.
Within the interviews, Elsheikh made admissions about taking electronic mail addresses and proof of life questions from the hostages and to even bodily beating them.
Ginsberg mentioned Elsheikh was a “damaged man” at the moment and solely did so to keep away from being despatched to Iraq, the place he would have confronted a abstract trial and execution.
He needed to be despatched to Britain or america “the place he might get a good trial,” she mentioned.
Foley, Sotloff and Kassig have been beheaded by Mohamed Emwazi, often known as “Jihadi John,” and movies of their deaths have been launched by IS for propaganda functions.
Mueller was initially held by the “Beatles” however then was turned over to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who reportedly raped her repeatedly.
IS introduced Mueller’s loss of life in February 2015 and mentioned she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike, a declare that was disputed by US authorities.
Baghdadi died throughout a US particular forces raid in 2019. Emwazi was killed by a US drone in Syria in 2015.
In his closing argument, Parekh informed the jury the federal government had proved that Elsheikh, Kotey and Emwazi “grew up collectively, radicalized collectively, fought as high-ranking IS fighters collectively and tortured and terrorized hostages collectively.”
“What these horrific crimes left behind is a legacy of brutal killings and shattered households,” he mentioned, asking the jury to ship a verdict of responsible on all counts.