US v. Kotey, et al.
Two militant fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) arrived in the United States in October 2020 in FBI custody on charges related to their participation in a brutal hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four American citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria. From 2012 to 2015, Kotey, Elsheikh, Mohamed Emwazi (deceased), and a fourth British citizen (CC-1) currently incarcerated in Turkey were ISIS fighters and participated in the abduction of American and European hostages in Syria. The men also allegedly engaged in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against the hostages, including against American citizens James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff, and Peter Edward Kassig. In April 2014, Kotey, Elsheikh, and Emwazi forcibly moved the Italian, Danish, and German citizens, along with two other European humanitarian aid workers, to an isolated area approximately two miles from their prison to witness the execution of a Syrian prisoner. Kotey and Elsheikh knew and understood this execution was part of the hostage negotiation process. Emwazi executed the Syrian prisoner by shooting him in the back of the head and then numerous times in the torso as he fell into a grave. Kotey instructed the hostages to kneel at the side of the grave and witness the execution while holding handmade signs pleading for their release. Elsheikh videotaped the execution of the Syrian hostage, and after the execution, the three men returned the European hostages to the prison with Elsheikh telling one hostage "You're next, [First name]." Kotey and Elsheikh were captured together in January 2018 by the Syrian Democratic Forces as they attempted to escape Syria for Turkey. Emwazi was killed in a United States military airstrike conducted in November 2015 in Syria. In January 2022, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that incriminating statements made Elsheikh who was charged with a significant role in the torture and beheading of American and British hostages held by the Islamic State group can be used against him at trial. A federal jury convicted Elsheikh in April 2022 on all eight charges that were brought against him in the United States relating to his participation in a brutal hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four American citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria.