WASHINGTON — A notorious British member of the Islamic State facing federal charges over allegations that he helped detain and torture Western hostages is preparing to plead guilty, according to a court order filed late Tuesday.
A succinct filing in the public records for the case against the man, Alexanda Kotey, announced the schedule of a “change of plea” for 5:30 p.m. Thursday before the judge overseeing the case, TS Ellis III of the Federal District Court. for the Eastern District of Virginia. Initially, he pleaded innocent.
mr. Kotey was part of an ISIS cell of four Britons dubbed “the Beatles” – a nickname their victims gave to their accents – and was known for their extreme brutality. Some of the group’s victims were beheaded for propaganda videos, including American journalists James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff. Their bodies have not been found.
Ali Soufan, a former FBI counter-terrorism agent who has worked closely with families of ISIS victims, said the change of plea suggested that Mr Kotey might be willing to provide details about what happened.
“A plea deal means he’s likely to cooperate,” said Mr Soufan, who has helped victims investigate what happened and lobbied the Trump-era Justice Department for Mr Kotey and another imprisoned British ISIS member , El Shafee Elsheikh, to be prosecuted in civil court . “During our investigation, we discovered that Kotey was involved in every stage of the hostage situation. He knows what happened to them and what they endured in ISIS custody. His cooperation should clarify that.”
Raj Parekh, one of the prosecutors in the case who now also oversees it as acting US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, declined to comment. Geremy Kamens, the district’s federal public defender who oversees the defense, did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr Kotey and Mr Elsheikh were captured in Syria in 2018 by a US-backed Kurdish militia. The US military took them into custody in 2019.
After a lengthy debate within the Trump administration over what to do with them — including the option to extradite them to the Iraqis or take them to the war prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — they were taken to Virginia to face a civilian court. to be charged. last year.
Both initially pleaded not guilty. Since then, the case has been in pre-trial hearings. Mr Elsheikh apparently did not change his plea.
Another member of the former British cell – Mohammed Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John – was killed in an airstrike in Syria in 2015. Mr. Emwazi is believed to have killed Mr. Foley and Mr. Sotloff, as well as Peter Kassig, an aid worker.
The fourth member, Aine Davis, is imprisoned in Turkey on terrorism charges.
Adam Goldman reporting contributed.