Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday against an alleged member of the notorious Islamic State kidnap-and-murder cell known as the “Beatles.”
El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, declined the opportunity to testify in his own defense at his trial in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Asked by Judge T.S. Ellis if he wanted to take the stand, Elsheikh said “No,” the first time his voice had been heard during the two-week trial.
Elsheikh is charged with the murders of American freelance journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig, and suspected of the kidnapping of nearly 20 other Westerners in Syria.
Ten European journalists, relief workers and Syrians held hostage by the “Beatles” have testified over the past few days of their brutal treatment at their captors’ hands.
Elsheikh’s lawyers declined to cross-examine any of the witnesses and presented only 20 minutes of excerpts from interviews he gave to media outlets as his defense.
The interviews were conducted after Elsheikh and another alleged “Beatle,” Alexanda Amon Kotey, were captured in January 2018 by a Kurdish militia in Syria.
Unlike now, Elsheikh acknowledged in the interviews that he had interactions with the Western hostages, who dubbed the hostage-takers the “Beatles” because of their British accents.
Elsheikh’s lawyers contend that he lied about being a “Beatle” in the interviews so he would be transferred to the United States instead of being put on trial in Iraq, where he would have faced a certain death sentence.
The final former hostage to testify was Danish photographer Daniel Rye Ottosen, who recounted how he was given 25 blows for his 25th anniversary.
He also recalled having a knife placed against his throat and a gun thrust into his mouth.
The prosecution and defense are to deliver their closing arguments on Wednesday, and the case will go to the jury.
Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were killed by their IS jailers and videos of their murders released for propaganda purposes.
According to witnesses and her family, Mueller — the other American — was turned over to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who raped her repeatedly.
IS announced her death in February 2015 and said she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike, a claim that was disputed by U.S. authorities.
Elsheikh and Kotey were turned over to U.S. forces in Iraq following their capture.
They were flown to Virginia in 2020 to face charges of hostage-taking, conspiracy to murder US citizens and supporting a terrorist organization.
Kotey pleaded guilty in September 2021 and is facing life in prison.
The other “Beatle,” Mohamed Emwazi, the notorious executioner known as “Jihadi John,” was killed by a US drone strike in Syria in 2015.