Issued on: Modified:
A member of a group of Islamic State militants who beheaded American hostages in Iraq and Syria, and were nicknamed “The Beatles” for their British accents, was found guilty of terrorism offenses in a U.S. court on Thursday.
A jury found El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, guilty on all counts following a trial in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington, on charges including lethal hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit murder.
The charges against Elsheikh, a former UK citizen, carry a potential death sentence, but U.S. prosecutors have advised British officials that they will not seek the death penalty.
Elsheikh was one of four militants belonging to the four-member Islamic State cell. The cell garnered international attention after releasing videos of the murders of U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig, among other victims.
Two of the cell’s four members, Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, were held in Iraq by the U.S. military before being flown to the United States to face trial. Kotey pleaded guilty last September to the murders of Foley, Sotloff, Mueller and Kassig.
Mohammed Emwazi, a British citizen who oversaw the executions, died in a drone strike in 2015. Aine Lesley Davis, the fourth member of the group, was convicted in Turkey on terrorism charges and jailed.
During opening arguments in the U.S. trial, Elsheikh’s lawyers tried to cast doubt on whether he was one of the “Beatles,” saying hostages had difficulty identifying their captors.
“It was horrific and senseless. None of that is in dispute,” defense lawyer Ed MacMahon said. “What is in dispute — and what you must decide — is whether Mr. Elsheikh bears any legal responsibility.”