IS Beatle trial: ‘Jihadi George’ involved in ‘cruel hostage taking’ in which kidnappers ‘appeared to enjoy’ beatings, US court told | American news

A British-born member of the so-called Beatles of the Islamic State, nicknamed Jihadi George, was part of a “cruel hostage situation” in which kidnappers “appeared to enjoy” beating detainees, a US court has heard .

Prosecutors say El Shafee Elsheikh and two other Britons were “utterly terrifying” and that the abuse was “relentless and unpredictable”.

Elsheikh is on trial in the US on charges of hostage-taking and conspiracy to murder journalists and aid workers in Syria.

He was accused of being a member of a terror cell operating in Iraq and Syriaand whose members were nicknamed “The Beatles” because of their British accents.

Read more: Who are the Islamic State fighters nicknamed ‘The Beatles’?

El Shafee Elsheikh (right) with Alexanda Kotey

The cell gained international attention after the release of videos of the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.

Elsheikh was known among his inmates not only for his British accent, but also for his unusual penchant for brutality, even within a terrorist group known for its brutality, the prosecutor says.

He is charged with conspiracy to commit murder and deadly hostage-taking. He denies the allegations.

Prosecutor John Gibbs told the court that Elsheikh “played a pivotal role in a brutal hostage situation”.

He continued: “In a prison called the desert, 26 western hostages were held. You will hear from some of them.

“They all said the three British men they were holding were extremely terrifying. The abuse was brutal and unpredictable.

“They seemed to enjoy beating the hostages.”

The prosecution told jurors how kidnappers caused a man to be beaten 25 times on his 25th birthday.

He added: “They put dead legs on them and put them in stress positions and threatened them with murder.”

There is no indication that El Shafee Elsheikh will change his plea
El Shafee Elsheikh is accused of playing a “central role” in the hostage plan

Lawyer Says ‘Beatles’ Had Similar Accents

The 33-year-old who was captured in January 2018appeared in court wearing a light blue shirt and dark glasses, with a bushy beard visible under a black face mask

Defense attorney Edward MacMahon told the jurors that he would not downplay the violence the hostages endured, but rather cast doubt on Elsheikh’s legal responsibility for those acts.

During his remarks, MacMahon said the “Beatles” all had similar British accents and characteristics, and discrepancies in the testimonies of released hostages means that Elsheikh cannot be definitively identified as a member of the terrorist cell.

Families remain stoic when they hear about violent last moments

Elsheikh wore a light blue shirt and dark rimmed glasses, with a black bushy beard visible under his face mask.

He stared blankly throughout most of the prosecution’s opening statement, briefly taking off his mask to take a sip of water from a bottle.

He also took off his glasses to watch a television showing a map of northern Syria showing the locations where he and his terror cell allegedly captured hostages.

James Foley’s parents were in court. His mother Diane, who has fought to bring her son’s suspected killers to the US to face trial, said she was “incredulous” that Elsheikh was advocating his innocence but that she hoped justice would be served.

Bethany Haines, daughter of murdered Scottish aid worker David Haines, was also in court in Virginia, as were the parents of Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old aid worker who was murdered.

The families remained stoic as details of their loved one’s imprisonment and violent final moments were passed in court.

The jury consists of seven women and five men who were asked during the jury selection whether they had any experience that would have biased them against a defendant who is Muslim, Syrian, Kurd or Arab.

A member of the group, Alexandra Kotey, who last year pleaded guilty to the murders of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassigwill be sentenced next month.

Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John, was killed in a drone strike in Syria in late 2015

Last group member Aine Lesley Davis was convicted in 2017 for terrorism in Turkey.

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