'ISIS Beatle' sentenced to life in prison by US court

Alexanda Kotey pleaded guilty to hostage-taking and conspiracy in murders of American journalists and aid workers

A US judge on Friday sentenced a member of the so-called ISIS Beatles to life in prison for his role in the kidnapping and killing of four Americans.

London-born Alexanda Kotey, 38, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy and hostage-taking resulting in the deaths of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.

US District Judge TS Ellis sentenced him to eight concurrent life sentences, telling Kotey he would go to prison “for the rest of your natural life”.

Mr Ellis told Kotey that his crimes were “egregious” in nature and that his victims, enduring months of captivity and inhumane treatment, were all “soldiers for good” who represented the very best the US had to offer.

Kotey was joined in court by co-accused El Shafee Elsheikh, who was convicted this month on several charges and will be sentenced at a later date.

The family of several victims had come to court in the Virginian city of Alexandria outside Washington for Kotey's sentencing.

Often accompanied by spouses for support, the family members of those murdered by the terror cell, called “The Beatles” because of their English accents, told Mr Ellis about their collective loss.

Shirley Sotloff, Steven Sotloff’s mother, angrily demanded that the green-jumpsuit-clad convicts look at her.

“Open your eyes and look at me,” she said. “The pain is beyond words … You destroyed our lives.”

Carl Mueller, whose daughter, Kayla, was held captive for 18 months before being killed in February 2015, told the court that his daughter's torment robbed him of his faith in God and country.

But the fact the US government brought Kotey and Elsheikh to justice had restored his belief in his country, Mr Mueller said.

Peter Kassig's mother Paula told Mr Ellis that the terror group had stolen her only child and robbed her of the possibility of becoming a grandparent.

Despite her grief and anger, she told the accused, while fighting back tears, “I will not hate you. I chose to let my heart be broken open, not broken apart.”

As part of his plea deal, Kotey will spend 15 years in US custody and, if certain conditions are met, will then be transferred to Britain to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

The ISIS terror cell was made up of presumed ringleader Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John”, Aine Davis, Elsheikh and Kotey.

Apart from the US victims, the group is responsible for the brutal killings of a number of Japanese citizens and Britons Alan Henning and David Haines.

Haines's daughter, Bethany, told the court she wondered “why monsters like these men are on the earth while my dad isn't".

Ms Haines's uncle Michael also spoke. He focused on forgiveness.

“I will not let terrorists claim my soul. I forgive you. You no longer have power over my mind.”

Speaking to the victims' families after their statements, Mr Ellis's voice cracked with emotion as he told them their loved ones were “heroes” who should be “celebrated” as inspirations.

In a court filing, Kotey's lawyers urged Mr Ellis to take into consideration Kotey's acceptance of guilt and his agreement to provide information to US investigators.

Because capital punishment is outlawed in the UK, US prosecutors told British officials they would not seek the death penalty.

Kotey was a citizen of the UK but the British government withdrew his citizenship.

After The Beatles took the journalists and aid workers hostage, they tortured them and circulated videotapes of gruesome beheadings on the internet.

Kotey admitted to inflicting torture on hostages, including waterboarding and electric shocks with a stun gun.

After four hours of deliberations during Elsheikh's trial last month, a federal jury in Virginia found him guilty on several charges including lethal hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit murder.

Emwazi, thought to be the man seen clad in black battle fatigues who beheaded Foley and others, was killed in a US-British missile strike in Raqqa, Syria, in 2015.

Updated: April 29, 2022, 7:48 PM
EDITOR'S PICKS