Alexanda Kotey, who was captured in 2018, has previously pleaded not guilty to a series of charges including hostage-taking resulting in death and conspiracy to murder
One of two British men facing trial in the United States for their role in the kidnap and beheading of Islamic State hostages in Syria plans to plead guilty to some charges, according to court papers.
Alexanda Kotey was allegedly one of the gangs of four Isis militants who became known by their captives in the Syrian city of Raqqa as “the Beatles” on account of their British accents.
The group’s leader, Mohammed Emwazi or “Jihadi John”, was killed by a US drone strike in 2015, and a fourth alleged member, Aine Davis, 37, is serving a sentence in a Turkish jail.
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But Kotey, 37, and El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, were captured in 2018 as Kurdish-led, US-backed forces took eastern Syria, and eventually transferred them to custody in the US.
Court papers unveiled last night by federal prosecutors in Virginia, where the two will be tried, announced that Kotey would record a “change of plea” tomorrow afternoon.
It gave no further details and prosecutors would not comment, but the announcement indicates that he has been offered a reduced sentence in return for an admission of guilt on some charges and possibly co-operation with the authorities.
There was no similar announcement for Elsheikh, raising the possibility that Kotey may give evidence against his former fellow gang member.
Both men initially pleaded not guilty to a series of charges including hostage-taking resulting in death, conspiracy to murder, and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
They had previously admitted in interviews being part of the group that held prisoners such as the British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines, both of whom were beheaded by Emwazi. However, they had denied playing an active role and said they had been forced into becoming Isis jailers.
The authorities claim they took part in one particularly gruesome episode, forcing a Danish prisoner to watch Emwazi shoot a Syrian prisoner before telling him “you are next”.
Their extradition to the US from first Syria and then Iraq followed a long legal battle in the British courts. Britain had assembled its own evidence against the two men, but government lawyers were unsure of their ability to win convictions for the most serious offenses and agreed that the two should stand trial in the US.
However, the authorities were stopped by a High Court order from handing over their own evidence to the US prosecutors without an assurance that the men would not face the death penalty.
Eventually, William Barr, then US attorney-general, gave that assurance, after consulting with the families of American victims of Isis including the journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and Kayla Mueller, an aid worker.