Former ISIL fighter Alexanda Kotey has pleaded guilty to charges of “terrorism” and lethal hostage-taking.
A US judge has sentenced a British-born former ISIL (ISIS) cell member known as “the Beatles” to life in prison, months after the defendant pleaded guilty to various counts of lethal hostage taking and other charges.
The sentence, handed down Friday against Alexanda Kotey by Judge TS Ellis in a court in northern Virginia, near Washington, DC, was a foregone conclusion.
But the former ISIL member’s lawyers had asked the court to recommend that Kotey not serve his sentence in a maximum-security prison where he would be in near-total isolation.
The judge declined to make a recommendation Friday, but brought the defense’s argument to the attention of US prison authorities, including that Kotey has been complying with directives while in US detention and agreed meet with the families of the victims.
In a court filing Friday, Ellis ordered that Kotey remain jailed in Alexandria, Virginia, until July “so that the defendant can fulfill his obligations under his plea agreement to meet with the government and the families of the victims.”
In September 2021, Kotey pleaded guilty to “terrorism” and hostage-taking charges resulting in the deaths of American journalists. james foley Y Steven Sotloff and humanitarian workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.
Relatives of ISIL victims spoke in the courtroom on Friday. “I will not hate you,” Kassig’s mother, Paula Kassig, told Kotey. “I would give sadness, pain and bitterness too much power over me. I choose to let my heart open, not break.”
Kotey was part of a brutal ISIL cell that executed hostages whose members were called the “Beatles” because of their British accent. The fighters have been stripped of their British citizenship.
Mohammed Emwazi, another member of the group who authorities say personally beheaded hostages in a recording, was killed in a drone strike in 2015.
Former British citizen El Shafee Elsheikh, who was captured with Kotey in Syria in 2018 and later brought to the US to face charges, He was sentenced of deadly hostage-taking charges earlier this month following a trial in which he denied involvement in kidnapping and murder. He is scheduled to be sentenced later this year.
Kotey’s lawyers have said he not only pleaded guilty, but also “accepted responsibility for his role in the Islamic State hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the grisly deaths of four Americans.”
“It will not be enough to make amends, but through his efforts and his acceptance of his own responsibility, Mr. Kotey has tried to make something good out of this heartbreaking case,” the defense said in court. last week’s presentation.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who represents Foley’s home state of New Hampshire, welcomed Kotey’s sentencing on Friday.
“Today marks another milestone on the long road to justice for James Foley, Peter Kassig, Steven Sotloff and Kayla Mueller,” Shaheen said in a statement.
“To see this terrorist, and the other terrorists guilty of kidnapping and murdering Americans, including James Foley of New Hampshire, face the full weight of the US justice system to pay for their crimes.”
ISIL controlled large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria from 2014 until its territorial defeat in late 2017. During that time, the group, which had declared a “caliphate” and inspired attacks on civilian targets around the world, attracted thousands of foreign fighters, including from Europe and the United States.
ISIL fighters regularly took hostages and filmed their execution, often by beheading, for propaganda purposes. The group also launched a campaign of massacres and sexual violence against Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority in northern Iraq in 2014, which the UN has classified as like a genocide.
US forces killed the first leader of ISIL Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid in northern Syria in 2019. His successor Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was also killed in Syria in a similar US operation in February.