SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

ISIS fighters known as 'the Beatles' demand fair trial

Two of the most wanted fighters from the British ISIS cell called "the Beatles" have called some of the group's actio...

Posted: Apr 9, 2018 1:50 PM
Updated: Apr 9, 2018 1:50 PM

Two of the most wanted fighters from the British ISIS cell called "the Beatles" have called some of the group's actions "regrettable," and insisted that their legal rights are respected wherever they're brought to trial.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh made the comments during a wide-ranging interview with CNN, which they consented to, from inside a detention facility in northern Syria where they are being held by US-backed Syrian Kurds.

The pair gained notoriety for being part of a British-accented group of ISIS fighters, fronted by Mohammed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John, who for a time regularly appeared in macabre videos from Syria showing him beheading several Western hostages.

The executions, widely disseminated online, caused outrage and horror in the West, transforming public perceptions of the terror threat posed by ISIS.

Legal limbo

The pair are among dozens of foreign-born ISIS fighters held in the region now seemingly caught amid a diplomatic wrangle, with their countries of origin either equivocating or point blank refusing to sanction their return to stand trial, leaving the Syrian Kurds with an uncomfortable burden.

Inside the facility, the pair seemed relaxed and comfortable as they sipped Pepsi and debated for 90 minutes whether they wanted to speak, before talking on camera for 54 minutes, often directly addressing the legal limbo they now find themselves in.

According to British media, the pair have been stripped of their UK citizenship, further exacerbating the issue of where -- if anywhere, given the legal hurdles -- to bring them to trial.

The US State Department accuses Kotey, 34, originally from Ladbroke Grove in London, of having "likely engaged in the group's executions and exceptionally cruel torture" of their Western journalist and aid worker hostages.

Elsheikh "was said to have earned a reputation for water-boarding, mock executions, and crucifixions," according to the State Department.

The pair joked about the United Kingdom or US potentially choosing to try them under Sharia law, or "hang, draw and quarter" them, while constantly referring to the rights afforded them under US and UK legal systems.

"l am not a democratic person, but I am being subjected to democratic law. So it is only right for those who claim to uphold this to fully uphold it," Elsheikh said.

Confronted by CNN with the fact several of their former hostages and alleged victims had said they recognized their faces and voices from previous interviews, Elsheikh declined to comment on what he said would be a legal matter. "It's just an accusation, legally speaking. You know, if Britain said 'we are going to deal with you by barbaric law, or with law from the medieval ages,' then hang, draw and quarter me. But that's not the case. I'm just merely pointing that out." Kotey offered a similarly veiled denial, and refused to be drawn on specific allegations.

Displaying a mix of contempt and joviality, Kotey added: "The American administration or British government -- if they decided they wanted to be champions of the sharia and apply Islamic law upon myself and Shaf [Elsheikh], then by all means. If not, then they should adhere to that which they claim to be champions of."

Asked where he would prefer to be tried, Kotey said: "Definitely, familiarity is the easier option. My experience is that British judges are quite fair and just." He added: "I miss fish and chips and pickled egg."

Elsheikh appeared angry at the potential loss of his UK citizenship -- specifically at how little information or consent he had in the process -- which the British government has yet to officially announce or comment on. "It does not necessarily upset me, but I think it would would be a very black day for international law."

A spokesperson for the UK Home Office refused to comment on the citizenship of the pair when approached by CNN Monday.

Speculation has grown as to what eventual solution will bring the ISIS prisoners to trial and where those convicted can be incarcerated, with the US emerging as one possible option.

Elsheikh twice expressed his approval of the US Department of Defense interrogators who he said have been talking to him, calling them "fair actors."

He added: "If you were to be taken back to the USA, you would be dealing with the likes of the FBI and people of that sort who are definitely not ... I don't have the same to say about them."

Elsheikh on several occasions referred to the traumatic scenes he said he had witnessed in Syria since arriving in Aleppo in 2012.

Both men suggested the violence of the regime against Syrian civilians was a motive for their eventual role in ISIS. Yet Kotey often appeared unaffected by the seriousness of the accusations made against him.

Asked what keeps him awake at night he paused, smiled and said: "There are these lice in my clothes in the place I'm sleeping. No, I want to talk about while I was in the Islamic State the kinds of things that keep you up at night is the sound of the F-16 jets flying the sky. And some Syrian neighbor with his kids crying."

Elsheikh also spoke of the death of children by what he said was Coalition bombardment.

Mock executions, murder

Between 2014 and 2015 the group, fronted by the masked black-clad Mohammed Emwazi or Jihadi John, participated in a string of brutal ISIS propaganda videos, in which they demanded millions in dollars in ransom to spare the lives of foreign hostages, many of them journalists and aid workers. Few of the ransoms were met, and instead the hostages were beheaded.

Reflecting in their involvement in the murders, the pair, at times, appeared uneasy with some of ISIS' methods.

Elsheikh said he "came to Syria and I had standards and principles. I didn't come here because of a love of death, or witnessing death, or seeing destruction."

He said some principles were compatible with being in ISIS, others not. "Every person who is a member of any community will have some discrepancies with opinions, actions."

Kotey said he regretted some of the extreme elements of ISIS' execution videos, and their effect on the victims' families. "Definitely it would be damaging and it's regrettable that families had to see that," he said.

However, Elsheikh defiantly referred to the man believed to behind many of the most notorious beheadings, Emwazi, as his "friend."

Asked to describe Emwazi, who was killed in a drone strike in November 2015, he said: "Obviously I know that people in the Western world aren't going to want to hear this, but truth has to be said. He was one of the most loyal friends I've had, trustworthy, honest, upstanding."

He admitted being surprised when he saw video of Emwazi beheading hostages, and declined to answer whether he approved of the act.

After the interview was finished, guards put handcuffs and masks on the prisoners. As the pair was led away, Elsheikh turned his head and said: "Make me look good."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 611039

Reported Deaths: 9716
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion844351336
Lake45508685
Allen32891552
Hamilton29546315
St. Joseph27449381
Elkhart24440345
Vanderburgh19513250
Tippecanoe18043140
Johnson15140295
Porter14865169
Hendricks14440248
Madison11009222
Vigo10769181
Clark10731144
Monroe9424113
Delaware9152134
LaPorte9103164
Howard8268144
Kosciusko808983
Warrick676599
Hancock6741104
Bartholomew6523100
Floyd6469110
Wayne6157162
Grant6011116
Dubois556980
Boone554668
Morgan545795
Henry509764
Marshall505384
Cass485264
Dearborn483245
Noble474059
Jackson426747
Shelby419581
Lawrence392980
Clinton374243
Gibson372559
Harrison350945
DeKalb348264
Montgomery346554
Knox335839
Miami323044
Steuben314545
Whitley309726
Wabash304551
Adams302136
Ripley300046
Putnam297850
Huntington293159
Jasper290534
White274143
Daviess271274
Jefferson264738
Decatur248983
Fayette247848
Greene241162
Posey240328
Wells236451
LaGrange229662
Scott225739
Clay223532
Randolph214948
Jennings199336
Sullivan192933
Spencer192422
Washington187523
Fountain184627
Starke175643
Jay168223
Owen166837
Fulton164230
Orange160835
Carroll159115
Rush155818
Perry155229
Vermillion149334
Franklin149033
Tipton133033
Parke13088
Pike118226
Blackford111422
Pulaski97337
Newton91721
Brown88235
Benton86910
Crawford8069
Martin74413
Warren6857
Switzerland6665
Union6287
Ohio4957
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 864322

Reported Deaths: 10711
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101705707
Cuyahoga860661145
Hamilton64392448
Montgomery43309418
Summit35063761
Lucas31500625
Butler31128232
Stark25933435
Warren19746141
Lorain19165223
Mahoning17383338
Lake16178154
Clermont16057111
Delaware1445479
Licking13274137
Fairfield1287781
Trumbull12861316
Greene12114139
Medina11666168
Clark10995265
Wood10407158
Allen9945126
Portage9382109
Miami921073
Richland9186118
Marion7467113
Tuscarawas7410182
Columbiana7356124
Pickaway728450
Wayne7080171
Muskingum705241
Erie6188129
Hancock554390
Ross5532100
Scioto541664
Geauga513555
Darke471092
Lawrence457958
Ashtabula454673
Union454628
Sandusky438562
Mercer434489
Seneca431566
Huron430041
Auglaize423064
Shelby421922
Jefferson420569
Belmont417740
Washington391840
Athens38129
Putnam376275
Madison356529
Knox354422
Ashland347438
Fulton339343
Defiance332286
Crawford323874
Preble321437
Brown313921
Logan309132
Ottawa294943
Clinton290743
Williams279467
Highland276718
Jackson265345
Guernsey256326
Champaign252628
Fayette237330
Morrow23334
Perry232018
Holmes225674
Henry220149
Hardin214033
Coshocton205722
Van Wert202645
Gallia198826
Wyandot196151
Pike177417
Adams176915
Hocking172624
Carroll156216
Paulding144721
Noble120740
Meigs109024
Monroe101032
Harrison89421
Morgan83430
Vinton70813
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 20°
Angola
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 17°
Huntington
Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 22°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 20°
Lima
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 22°
Wintry Mix & Snow
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events