Remember Kayla Mueller? The young American woman went to Syria in 2013 to assist Doctors Without Borders, but ISIS abducted her almost immediately — and made her a slave to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The four British ISIS members known as “the Beatles” extorted her family for money, as well as tortured and killed other Americans, including journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and others in gruesome beheading videos.
The US now has custody of the two surviving “Beatles,” Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, but they have yet to be charged with any crimes. It’s time that ended, the families declare in a Washington Post editorial today. They want Donald Trump to order them moved to the US and charged in federal court — and to be subject to the death penalty for terrorism and murder:
With the U.S. military reducing its presence in the Middle East, we worry that the detainees will never face trial, just as hundreds of terrorists who were detained on U.S. bases during the Iraq War were let go as the United States withdrew its forces. Having escaped justice, many — including al-Baghdadi before his death — went on to form the Islamic State leadership.
Risking a repeat of this regrettable history is alarming enough. But detaining suspects indefinitely without trial is also bad policy. Terrorists use it as a recruiting tool and as an excuse for hostage-taking, accusing the United States of doing the same. Islamic State propaganda makes heroes of its members in U.S. custody, portraying them as living martyrs — a message that is repellent to the loved ones of their victims.
The U.S. government should send a more powerful message: It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. If you harm American citizens, you will not escape. You will be hunted down. And when you are caught, you will face the full power of American law. …
We implore the Trump administration: Please, for the sake of truth, for the sake of justice, order these Islamic State suspects transferred to the United States to face trial.
In one of her final letters home, Kayla signed off, “With all my everything.” That is what Kayla, Jim, Peter and Steven are to us: our everything. Obtaining justice for them would mean the world.
The timing of this plea is propitious, as new developments in the case have emerged today as well. NBC reports that Kotey and Elsheikh have changed their stories and now admit being part of Mueller’s detention and extortion:
Two of the British ISIS terrorists dubbed the “Beatles” further incriminated themselves in mistreating Western hostages in Syria, including American Kayla Mueller, in interviews obtained exclusively by NBC News.
In the interviews, the two men, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, for the first time admitted their involvement in the captivity of Mueller, an aid worker who was held captive and tortured and sexually abused before her death in 2015.
Kotey said, “She was in a room by herself that no one would go in.”
Elsheikh got into more detail, saying, “I took an email from her myself,” meaning he got an email address ISIS could use to demand ransom from the family. “She was in a large room, it was dark, and she was alone, and…she was very scared.”
If the US has the two terrorists in its custody, and they admit their connection to Mueller’s kidnaping and eventual rape and death, why haven’t they been charged yet? As it turns out, the United Kingdom has refused to cooperate in the prosecution — unless the US takes the death penalty off the table. They have the most crucial evidence tying the two (and others) to murders and torture of Americans, but they won’t part with it if US prosecutors seek execution.
The Muellers refuse to take anything off the table, they tell NBC:
It’s been five years since we learned about Kayla Mueller who was kidnapped by ISIS. She is believed to be killed while captive in Syria. New details have emerged about two men allegedly involved, this comes as her family continues to call for justice. @RichardEngel has more. pic.twitter.com/fuCngbFoKK
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) July 23, 2020
This is pretty much SOP in extradition issues with European countries. The use of the death penalty in the US in civil prosecutions has long been a sore spot with our Western allies. France refused for years to extradite Ira Einhorn because they feared Pennsylvania would seek the death penalty; the state had to agree to seek a life sentence instead before he got sent back to the US.
This case is different, however, even if the UK wants to act like it isn’t. This took place in a time of war, not in a civil context, and these people dealt death out to hostages on camera in the most brutal ways imaginable while fighting that war. The families want them tried in civilian court rather than in a military tribunal, which is a complicating factor to this issue, but these aren’t normal criminals. They are war criminals of the most brutal kind, and war crimes are different than civil crimes. We have the rule of law to hold people accountable domestically, but the only way to make war criminals feel any compunction at all is what might await them if they are captured. Three hots and a cot doesn’t quite cut it.
These two war criminals decided to forego civil niceties when they went to war and targeted American civilians, among others. We should recognize that when dealing with them, and we should force the UK to recognize it as well.