Two ex-British Islamic State (IS) “Beatles” have appeared in a US court charged with the execution of four American hostages.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) announced on Wednesday the long-awaited charges against the two.
El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, and Alexanda Kotey, 36, known by their prisoners as George and Ringo, appeared at a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia via video link from prison.
The alleged ringleader of the group, Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John“, was killed in a drone strike in 2016. The fourth member, Aine Lesley Davis, was sentenced to seven years in prison in Turkey in 2017.
The pair had been in US military custody in Iraq since October 2019. In order to secure British help in obtaining evidence against them, US prosecutors had had to agree not to seek the death penalty. Once they had done that, they were able to transfer them to the US to face justice.
The DoJ is accusing them of carrying out a gruesome campaign of torture and beheadings and other acts of violence against Western aid workers and journalists they had taken hostage in Syria. The executions were filmed and posted on social media.
US Assistant Attorney-General John Demers told a press conference the charges were “the result of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice” for the four Americans who were executed: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.
Addressing the families of the victims, he said: “Although we cannot bring back your children, we will do all that we can do: obtain justice for them, for you, and for all Americans.”
Without the death penalty being available, the charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.