By Jan Wolfe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A member of an Islamic State militant group nicknamed “The Beatles” that beheaded American hostages is due to face a US judge on Friday who will determine whether to subject him to a lifetime of near-solitary confinement.
US District Judge TS Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia, will hold a sentencing hearing for London-born Alexanda Kotey, who pleaded guilty to murdering US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.
Hostages held by Kotey and his fellow militants nicknamed them “The Beatles” for their British accents. The hearing is expected to include hours of emotional testimony from victims’ family members.
The charges carry a life sentence, but Ellis will mandatory make a recommendation about Kotey’s prison facility and whether he should be separated from other inmates in near-solitary confinement.
In a court filing, Kotey’s lawyers urged Ellis to take into consideration Kotey’s acceptance of guilt and his agreement to provide information to US investigators.
US authorities have advised British officials that prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against Kotey.
Kotey was a citizen of the United Kingdom, but the British government withdrew his citizenship. His Islamic State cell took custody and aid workers hostage, tortured them and circulated videotapes of gruesome beheadings on the internet.
Kotey admitted to inflicting torture on hostages, including waterboarding and electric shocks with a stun gun.
Another “Beatles” member, El Shafee Elsheikh, faced trial last month. After four hours of deliberations, a federal jury in Virginia found Elsheikh guilty on charges including lethal hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit murder.
Ellis is scheduled to sentence Elsheikh in September.
A third member of the “Beatles” group, Mohammed Emwazi, died in a US-British missile strike in Syria in 2015.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)