Trial date set in case against ISIS 'Beatles'

The two former British citizens are accused of helping ISIS carry out the executions and ransoms of several Western hostages

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2020.  REUTERS/Will Dunham/File Photo/File Photo
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A trial date of January 18, 2022, has been set in the case of the US government versus Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh.

The two former British citizens are accused of helping ISIS carry out the executions and ransoms of several Western hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

The two are believed to be members of an ISIS gang the hostages called “The Beatles” due to their strong British accents.

The leader of the group, Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John”, was killed in a drone strike in 2015.

Mr Kotey and Mr Elsheikh were captured by Syrian Democratic Forces in 2018 and transferred to American forces in Iraq.

They were eventually extradited to the US in October 2020.

The two men appeared in court in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington, before Judge Thomas Selby Ellis III. They were wearing dark green jumpsuits and face masks, and both men wore long beards. Mr Kotey had a closely shaved head, while Mr Elsheikh’s hair had grown long and was kept in a bun.

Dennis Fitzpatrick, an assistant US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, represented the prosecution.

He told the court the prosecution had amassed more than 5,900 pages of evidence as well as 27 discs and hard drives of material. He said most of the evidence had already been handed over to the defence and the remainder would be ready in the next "3 to 4 weeks".

Based on the amount of evidence and the complexity of the case—which involved both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and British investigators – in addition to the pandemic, which has made it difficult for the defence to confer with their clients, Judge Ellis agreed to set a trial date for early 2022.

"We remain hopeful that by next year, an in-person trial might be possible," the James W Foley Legacy Foundation, a hostage advocacy group, said in a statement. "We thank the United States Department of Justice and Attorney Dennis Fitzpatrick’s prosecution team for their work to develop a fair case for accountability for the atrocities endured by American aid worker Peter Kassig and freelance conflict journalists, Steven Sotloff and James W Foley."