US federal appeals court upholds 2022 conviction of Islamic State ‘Beatle’

Judges reject claim by El Shafee Elsheikh, part of UK-born terror cell that beheaded abducted journalists on video, that US interrogators didn’t properly notify him of his rights

File - El Shafee Elsheikh, one of the Islamic State Beatles,' speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at a security center in Kobani, Syria March 30, 2018. (Hussein Malla/AP)
File - El Shafee Elsheikh, one of the Islamic State Beatles,' speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at a security center in Kobani, Syria March 30, 2018. (Hussein Malla/AP)

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (AP) — A federal United States appeals court on Friday upheld the conviction of a British national for his role in a hostage-taking scheme by the Islamic State group that took roughly two dozen Westerners captive a decade ago.

El Shafee Elsheikh was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2022 in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. His jury trial established that he was one of the notorious “Beatles,” Islamic State captors nicknamed for their British accents and known for torturing and beating prisoners.

Elsheikh appealed his conviction, arguing that confessions he had given in media interviews after his capture in 2018 should have been tossed out of court. He alleged that the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces tortured him and forced him to conduct the interviews.

Elsheikh’s lawyers also argued that the FBI had violated his constitutional rights by interviewing him while he was in foreign custody. Elsheikh said he was confused by the process, in which he was initially interrogated by investigators from the US Department of Defense who were using him to gather intelligence and did not read him his rights as required by US law.

Elsheikh was later questioned by FBI agents who did read him his rights and told him that anything he said from that point on could be used against him in court.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond rejected both of Elsheikh’s arguments. The judges said the evidence did not support Elsheikh’s contention that he had been beaten or tortured. The court also ruled that Elsheikh’s interrogators had followed proper procedures in their two-step interrogation process to inform him of his rights.

File – Alexanda Kotey, left, and El Shafee Elsheikh, two of the Islamic State ‘Beatles,’ read a news article about themselves during an interview with The Associated Press at a security center in Kobani, Syria, March 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Elsheikh was one of two “Beatles” brought to the US to face trial. The United Kingdom agreed to the extradition and provided intelligence and evidence to assist with the prosecution after the US promised it would not seek the death penalty.

The other Beatle who faced trial, Alexanda Kotey, pleaded guilty under a deal that provided a possibility he could, after 15 years, serve the remainder of his life sentence in the UK.

This combination of file pictures created on October 28, 2019 shows: (L-R) a handout photo, courtesy of the Arizona Daily Courier taken by Matt Hinshaw of Kayla Mueller in 2013 in Prescott, Arizona; US freelance reporter James Foley on November 5, 2012 in Aleppo, Syria; a file handout photo released by the Kassig Family on October 4, 2014 of Peter Kassig, taken along the Syrian border between late 2012 and fall 2013; and
an image grab taken from a video released by the Islamic State on September 2, 2014, purportedly showing 31-year-old US freelance writer Steven Sotloff dressed in orange and on his knees in a desert landscape speaking to the camera before being beheaded by a masked captor. (AFP)

Elsheikh’s convictions were related to the deaths of four American hostages: James Foley, Peter Kassig, Kayla Mueller and Steven Sotloff. All but Mueller were executed in videotaped beheadings that were circulated online. Mueller was forced into slavery and raped multiple times by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before she was killed.

They were among 26 people whom the Islamic State abducted between 2012 and 2015, when it controlled large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Most Popular
read more: