Are they truly sorry — or just trying to avoid a quick trip to the gallows? The two remaining ISIS “Beatles” are what remains of the four British terrorists who tortured and killed defenseless Western hostages and then created propaganda videos of the killings. Captured well over a year ago, the pair’s fate has not yet been decided, and the UK refuses to allow them to return.
CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh got another interview with the pair, who sound and act a lot less arrogant than in last year’s interview. Facing an angry Kurdish or Iraqi tribunal can have that effect:
Two of the remaining members of the British ISIS cell known as “the Beatles” have confessed their part in the ransoming of Western hostages in a rare interview that showed them broken and pleading for news of their fate. One of the fighters also offered an unprecedented apology for his actions with the group.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh have been held in northern Syria by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for more than a year, and they recently consented to speak to CNN through a cameraman in their jail and a correspondent by remote video link from London. …
A visibly drained Elsheikh said: “I consider my role in this whole scenario, this whole episode as one of my mistakes that I would like to apologize for. [To] everybody involved and everybody who was affected, directly or indirectly.”
Kotey — whose year mostly in solitary confinement appears to have removed the arrogance he displayed when interviewed by CNN a year ago — declined to offer an apology. But he admitted taking email addresses from European hostages and assisting in the ransom negotiations that followed with relatives and friends.
“I was a fighter,” Kotey said. “Extracting from them email addresses for communications. For example, if it was a proof of life question, something that only they would be able to answer.” Asked why he agreed to this task, he replied: “It just so happened that way.”
They’re not entirely broken. Neither of them admit to the torture that multiple witnesses have accused them of doing, nor the murders, which they claim was conducted by another “unit.” To hear the two of them tell the story, all they did was negotiate ransoms for hostage releases. They’re admitting to as little as possible while conducting a new round of propaganda, this time for the purpose of getting transferred back to the UK, where they have a better chance of manipulating the system. Kotey even admits to participating in planning a terror attack in London that never came off, apparently as an enticement to make his way back home through a trial by giving prosecutors a taped admission.
This is a change of tone from last year’s interview, where the pair demanded that Western nations give them their full measure of due process. The UK responded to that by stripping them of their citizenship and asking the US to take the lead in their prosecution — and pointedly not asking for the US to waive the death penalty in doing so. Thus far, we haven’t yet intervened, but their murders of US citizens gives us the opening to extradite the pair and try them here, if we so choose. At least to this point, we’ve chosen instead to let the two rot in Syrian Kurdish detention, likely to be transferred to the Iraqis at any time.
As Paton Walsh points out, that’s the worst option for these two terrorists. In the US or the UK, they’d be media sensations, and their trials would drag on for years while they tried to manipulate journalists into making them into sympathetic figures. They might even succeed in manipulating due process into acquittals, or at least reduced charges. Courts in Iraq have become so efficient at trials for ISIS terrorists that judges routinely take no more than ten minutes to deliberate before sentencing them to death. It’s an anonymous and ignominious end for radical Islamist turncoats, which seems to be the biggest fear of Kotey and Elsheikh.
That might be the best justice possible for these two terrorists.