Two British men known as the “Beatles” accused of helping ISIS prisoners of torture and murder in Syria – including four Americans – were brought to the US on Wednesday to bring charges of terrorism and murder conspiracy.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were due to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. The US authorities said they were involved in the kidnapping of international hostages, including US helpers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig and US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Mueller was tortured and sexually assaulted before her death in 2015. The two British men admitted they were involved in keeping them prisoner in an NBC News interview that aired in July. They also admitted beating Foley.
Court documents said that throughout the detention of the American hostages and others, “Kotey and Elsheikh supervised and were responsible for transferring the hostages to detention facilities”. The men committed “a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against hostages”.
Zach Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said they inflicted pain, suffering and atrocity, including being forced to witness murders, mock executions and jarring the body with an electrical device.
The two were part of a group of four British men led by Mohammed Emwazi, who allegedly murdered Foley in a videotaped beheading. Emwazi was killed in 2015 by hellfire rockets fired from a CIA drone.
Some of the ISIS hostages who escaped said they called the four men “The Beatles” because of their British accents. The fourth, Aine Lesley Davis, was sentenced to seven and a half years in a Turkish prison in 2017.
American and British authorities said the men were responsible for 27 murders, including the beheading of Foley, Sotloff and Kassig, and British aides David Haines and Alan Henning.
In previous interviews, Kotey and Elsheikh have denied involvement in the murders and torture, calling themselves “liaison officers” between the hostages and high-ranking ISIS members such as Emwazi.
In the NBC News interviews, Kotey and Elsheikh gave new details about Mueller’s time in captivity. “I took an email from her myself.” Officials said it was used to send a ransom note to her family.
“She was in a big room, it was dark and she was alone and … she was very scared,” Elsheikh said in an interview.
Kotey and Elsheikh, captured by Kurdish forces in 2018, were handed over to the American military last year and have been in US custody in Iraq over how and when to bring them to justice.
The families of the Americans killed by ISIS said in a joint statement on Wednesday that they were relieved that the two men had been brought to the US for trial.
“James, Peter, Kayla and Steven were abducted, tortured, beaten, starved and murdered by members of the Islamic State in Syria. Now our families can take responsibility for these crimes against our children in US courts, ”the statement said.
The transfer of the men to the US for trial was delayed by legal proceedings in the UK. The UK authorities said they would be prohibited from handing over to the US any evidence received from their investigators. After a UK judge lifted the information exchange ban, it paved the way for law enforcement in the US.