Attorney General William Barr has promised to officially exclude the death penalty for two notorious ISIS inmates to ensure that the British government can provide evidence against them, victims’ relatives told NBC News after speaking to Barr on Thursday.
Barr’s decision breaks a dead end with the British government and appears to be paving the way for the two former British residents, who were part of a group in Syria known as the “Beatles”, to go from US military detention in Iraq to criminal justice system will be transferred to the process in the United States.
“We just had a promising call to the attorney general. He’ll get the death penalty off the table in the coming days, ”said Diane Foley, whose son, journalist James Foley, was beheaded in 2014 by a Beatles member.
Barr’s spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said she couldn’t say anything about it.
Foley and the parents of Steven Sotloff, another US journalist who was beheaded by ISIS in 2014, told Barr he plans to notify UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in the coming days after talking to her about his intentions.
The Attorney General was very gracious and now that the families are unanimous, he’s ready to move forward, ”said Foley. “He will ask the UK Home Secretary for evidence. He wants to use the evidence as soon as possible.”
The families now hope that Britain will act in time, they said.
“The ball will be in the British court,” said Shirley Sotloff, Steven’s mother. “If we take the death penalty off the table – and we all agree – it’s up to the British.”
Art Sotloff, Steven’s father, said Barr is attempting to prosecute former British nationals Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh.
“I’m excited that he’s excited about it,” said Art Sotloff, referring to Barr.
The Washington Post reported on July 31 that Barr was “ready to consider” dropping the death penalty in the case.
A UK court ruled in March that the UK government should not be able to produce evidence if a death penalty is possible. While relatively common in the United States, the death penalty has been abolished in Europe.
The leading Beatle and the man believed to have used the knife in these murders was Mohammed Emwazi, who was killed in 2015 by hellfire missiles launched by a CIA drone. They were referred to as the Beatles because of their British accents. The fourth Beatle, Aine Lesley Davis, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison in Turkey in 2017.
In interviews conducted exclusively by NBC News, Kotey and Elsheikh charged themselves with the abuse of western hostages in Syria, including the Americans Kayla Mueller and James Foley.
They also admitted for the first time to be in captivity by Kayla Mueller, a helper who was tortured and sexually abused before her death in 2015.
“She was alone in a room that nobody would go into,” said Kotey
Elsheikh elaborated, saying, “I received an email from her myself,” which means that he received an email address through which the Islamic State militant group could request ransom from the family. “She was in a big room, it was dark and she was alone and … she was very scared.”
In an email checked by NBC News, ISIS asked the millers to pay 5 million euros and threatened that if the demands were not met, they would send the family “a picture of Kayla’s body”.
Kotey and Elsheikh were captured by Kurdish forces and handed over to US troops. They were in US military custody in Iraq, asking how and when they will be brought to justice. US prosecutors in the eastern Virginia district have investigated the case, officials said.
The families of Americans killed by ISIS have been pushing for the persecution of two men since they were taken into US custody last year.
The Beatles was responsible for 27 murders, including the beheading of the Americans Foley, Sotloff and Peter Kassig, as well as the British helpers David Haines and Alan Henning, according to the US and British authorities.
Kotey and Elsheikh denied involvement in the murders and tortures, and in interviews described themselves as “connections” between the hostages and the guards.