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Was the defendant one of the cruel “Beatles” of IS? For the jurors to decide



(Alexandria) After two weeks of a grueling trial near Washington, jurors retired on Wednesday to decide the fate of El Shafee el-Sheikh, accused of being one of the state’s cruel ‘Beatles’ Islamic (IS), which he denies.

This 33-year-old jihadist was “without a shadow of a doubt” part of this cell of jailers nicknamed by their hostages because of their British accent, said prosecutor Raj Parekh.

“Nothing proves it,” retorted his lawyer Nina Ginsburg, while admitting the “horrible and senseless” nature of the abuse suffered by the 27 Western hostages placed under the thumb of the “Beatles” between 2012 and 2015.

Simulation of drowning, systematic beatings, psychological torture… During the trial, a dozen of them gave frightening testimonies about the violence inflicted on them by these guards during their captivity.

They described “sadistic” men, always “masked” and “gloved”, who forbade looking at them and distributed beatings without counting.

Thanks to these witnesses, “we have built a mosaic of evidence,” said Raj Parekh. “Together they form a clear and complete picture” of the responsibility of the accused: he was part of a “terrifying and inhuman conspiracy”, which “resulted in the death” of American, British and Japanese captives.

Most were beheaded and their deaths staged in excruciating propaganda videos that shocked the world.

El Shafee el-Sheikh “told you so himself”, added the prosecutor in reference to the multiple interviews given by the accused to journalists after his capture by Syrian Kurdish forces in 2018 and before his transfer to the United States. United in 2020.

“Great unsaid”

He was indeed a jihadist in the ranks of IS, his lawyer admitted. But the prosecution failed to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” his membership in the “Beatles”, she argued.

“Mr. el-Sheikh was never identified in this court by any of the former hostages,” recalled Mr.and Ginsburg. “This is the great unsaid” of this trial.

“There was not a single question about the build of the Beatles, their height, their skin color, their way of speaking… Why? she wondered. “Because it doesn’t match Mr. el-Sheikh. »

In addition, she assured, “no physical evidence links him” to the hostages, no “trace of DNA, no fingerprints, no hair” was found during the American raids on IS prisons. .

As for her televised confessions, they were given “by a broken man”, detained for a year and a half by “paramilitary forces”, she argued. According to Mand Ginsburg, “he hoped to be transferred to the United States to have a fair trial” and avoid a hasty sentence of hanging.

“It’s misinformation and speculation,” swept away another prosecutor, Dennis Fitzpatrick, authorized to conclude the proceedings.

In these interviews, El Shafee el-Sheikh delivers details “that only a participant could know”, such as the “cardboard chess set” that the hostages had made, noted the prosecutor.

“What’s Right”

For the prosecution, the accused formed a trio with Mohammed Emwazi and Alexanda Kotey.

The first, known as “Jihadi John”, had distinguished himself by appearing with a butcher’s knife on the videos of the beheading of the hostages. He was killed in a drone attack in 2015.

The other was arrested with El Shafee el-Sheikh in Syria and transferred in 2020 to the United States. He has since pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at the end of the month.

“They grew up together” in London, said Raj Parekh. “They radicalized together, were senior IS fighters together, held hostages together, tortured and terrorized them together. »

Without them, American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff “would still be covering conflicts around the world” and humanitarians Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller “helping those in need”.

These four victims “wanted to do what is right,” added his colleague Dennis Fitzpatrick. “Now it’s up to you to do what’s right,” he told the jurors.

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