Alexandria, Virginia – On Thursday night, a British national admitted in a federal court near the capital that he had played a leading role in the Islamic State’s plan to torture, demand ransom and eventually behead the hostages of the United States.
37-year-old Alexanda Anon Kotey pleaded guilty to all eight charges against him in a plea hearing in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria. These allegations include taking hostages leading to death and providing material support to the Islamic State Group between 2012 and 2015.
He admitted to being connected with the deaths of four American hostages — journalist James Foley, journalist Steven Sotloff and rescuers Peter Cassig and Kaila Muller — as well as European and Japanese nationals who were also captured.
Kotey is one of the four members of the Islamic State who were captured and called the “Beatles” because of their British accent. After the United States assured Britain that neither of them would face the death penalty, he and another man, El Shafee Elsheikh, were taken to the United States last year to be charged.
Elsheikh still plans to stand trial in January. The third Beatle, Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadist John”, was killed in a drone attack in 2015. The fourth member is serving his sentence in Turkey.
The plea agreement stipulates a mandatory minimum sentence without parole. However, after 15 years, he will be eligible to be transferred to the UK, where he will face any possible charges.
In the plea agreement, he admitted that life is also an appropriate sentence in the UK. If he is sentenced to life imprisonment there, the agreement requires him to serve the remaining life imprisonment, either in the UK (if the country wishes) or be transferred back to the United States to serve life imprisonment.
The deal also requires him to cooperate with the authorities and answer questions about his working hours in the Islamic State Group. However, he will not be required to testify in Elsheikh’s trial.
In addition, the transaction required him to meet with the victim’s family when they requested it.
When US District Judge TS Ellis asked him to explain what he did in his own words, Kotey described in detail his time in the Islamic State.
He said that he went to Syria to “fight Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian army” and finally swore allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“I accept that I will be seen as a radical with extremist views,” he said.
He admitted that he was involved in the “capture and detention operations” of the kidnapping of Welfare and other Western hostages, and led the ransom extortion effort.
He described the violence suffered by the hostages as a necessary part of keeping them in order and persuading Western governments to pay the ransom.
In the years after the hostages were killed, he said that he had played multiple roles in the Islamic State, including a sniper and the head of a special forces training camp.
‘Terror never has the final say’
Prosecutor Dennis Fitzpatrick (Dennis Fitzpatrick) said at the hearing on Thursday that Kotai, El Sheikh and Emwazi were all friends in London when they were young, where they became radical.
In a statement, Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia, who was also a member of the Kotey and Elsheikh prosecution team, said that the case has been concerned about the victims and their families.
“Their resilience, courage, and perseverance ensure that terror will never have the final say. The justice, fairness, and humanity that this defendant obtained in the United States is in line with the cruel, inhuman, and indiscriminate violence that the terrorist organization he supports touted. The contrast is sharp,” Parek said.
According to the indictment, Mueller was also raped by ISIS leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi. Baghdadi was shot and killed by US troops in Syria in 2019.
Kotey and Elsheikh were captured by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces when they were trying to flee to Turkey in Syria in 2018.
The families of all four victims attended the hearing on Thursday and then stood outside the court with prosecutors. They will have the opportunity to speak in Kotey’s formal judgment on March 4.
James Foley’s mother, Diane, said she was grateful for the conviction and praised the prosecutor for understanding Kotey’s guilt in detail.
“If our country wants to prevent hostage taking, this accountability system is essential,” she said. Diane Foley also called on the US government to give priority to the return of all Americans detained abroad.