The US Justice Department has announced that two alleged Islamic State militants could face a lifetime in prison after they were served an eight-count indictment over the torture and beheadings of four American citizens.
Former British citizens Alexanda Kotey, 36, and El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, were allegedly half of an Isis cell nicknamed the “Beatles” because of their British accents. The cell is accused of jailing western citizens and playing a role in their torture and beheading.
The Justice Department announced on Wednesday the transfer of Mr Kotey and Mr Elsheikh to the US so they could be prosecuted in an American court for their alleged abuse and murder of American citizens.
They are expected to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, later on Wednesday.
An eight-count indictment against the pair includes charges of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking that resulted in death, four counts of hostage-taking resulting in death, and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death.
Mr Kotey and Mr Elsheikh allegedly worked as guards and interpreters in the Isis cell, and their work included mentally and physically abusing four American citizens: James Foley, Kayla Mueller, Steven Sotloff, and Peter Kassig.
“These men will now be brought before a United States court to face justice for the depraved acts alleged against them in the indictment,” US assistant attorney general John Demers said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Mr Demers noted that the alleged ringleader of the “Beatles”, Mohammed Emwazi (known as “Jihadi John”), faced “a different type of American resolve”.
The US military killed Emwazi with a drone attack in Raqqa, Syria, in November 2015. His death was confirmed in January 2016.
Mr Demers said: “If you harm an American, you will receive the same fate as these men … You will face American justice in an American courtroom with the prospect of many years in an American prison … You will be pursued until the end of the earth.”
The fourth man allegedly in the Isis group is Aine Davis, who is currently imprisoned in Turkey on terrorism charges. His extradition to the US remains unlikely amid the deteriorating relationship between Turkey and the US.
Mr Kotey and Mr Elsheikh could face a lifetime in prison if found guilty.
“These charges are the product of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by Isis,” the US attorney general, William Barr, said in a statement. “Although we cannot bring them back, we can and will seek justice for them, their families, and for all Americans.”
The US confirmed that it would not pursue the death penalty for Mr Kotey and Mr Elsheikh, in an effort to work alongside the UK in prosecuting the two alleged terrorists.
The militants have been in US military custody since they were captured abroad in 2019. They grew up in Britain and had citizenship, but the British government withdrew their citizenship following the accusations against them.
The families of Foley, Mueller, Sotloff and Kassig welcomed the news of the charges against the two “Beatles” in a joint statement.
“James, Peter, Kayla, and Steven were kidnapped, tortured, beaten, starved, and murdered by members of the Islamic State in Syria,” the statement read. “Now our families can pursue accountability for these crimes against our children in a US court.”
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