US charges ISIS members linked to murder of Jewish journalist in Syria
Sotloff was a Jewish journalist who went to Syria to cover the war.
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN OCTOBER 8, 2020 17:16Email Twitter Facebook fb-messenger
SYRIANS EXCAVATE a mass grave in Syria in the wake of the ISIS war (photo credit: REUTERS)
The US has flown two ISIS members to the US to face charges for terrorism and the taking of hostages related to the killing of four Americans. The ISIS members had been held in Iraq under the Law of Armed Conflict and are appearing in federal court in the eastern district of Virginia, according to US officials. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said it was a solemn day to remember four Americans murdered by ISIS: James Wright Foley, Steven Joel Sotloff, Peter Edward Kassig and Kayla Jean Mueller.
Sotloff was a Jewish journalist who went to Syria to cover the war. Demers noted that Sotloff was a grandson of Holocaust survivors and that he sought to give a voice to those who were vulnerable and victims. Demers said that the US was moved to act because of the families of the fallen and said the US would never rest until justice was done. He vowed to obtain justice for the families and all Americans.
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Demers called Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh – the two men brought to the US – terrorists and said they had underestimated American resolve. They will face justice for the “depraved” acts of ISIS. Demers said other members of the ISIS group had faced American arms on the battlefield. “If you survive that you will face American justice in the American courtroom and prospect of many years in prison.” He vowed the US would never forget or quit and pursue ISIS murderers to the ends of the earth.
According to CNN, the two men were charged with conspiracy to commit taking a hostage resulting in death, four counts of hostage-taking resulting in death, one count of conspiracy to murder US citizens, and counts of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Even if they are convicted on some of the charges they could face a very long time in prison.
Sotloff came to Israel in 2005 and studied at The Raphael Recanati International School, Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. He also wrote for The Jerusalem Report. He was kidnapped while reporting in Syria in 2013 and murdered by ISIS in 2014. A memorial service was held for him at Pinecrest Florida’s Temple Beth Am synagogue in September 2014. In August 2015, his parents shared a letter with media that had been smuggled out of Syria. “Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize you only have one. Hug each other every day. Don’t fight over stupid things,” Sotloff wrote. Sotloff’s Jewish identity, and the fact he had Israeli citizenship, was hidden during his time as a hostage. Shirley and Arthur Sotloff, his parents, have continued to campaign and speak out about the life of their son.
Federal officials held the press conference on Wednesday and said the ISIS members had been handed to the FBI. Demers thanked the agents and analysts who are the “bedrock” of the department. He thanked prosecutors and others who have worked on the case.
The attorney general also asked to convey the support of the UK which enabled this prosecution to move forward. The UK has opposed the death penalty and it appears the death penalty for the accused is off the table. The US prosecutors say they humbly accept the responsibility for confronting ISIS.
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Washington is determined to prosecute Americans who went to support ISIS. Many countries have not taken back their citizens that were captured in eastern Syria. However, the US says it has sought to take responsibility. “If you have American blood in your veins or American blood on your hands you will face justice,” Demers said.
The US says that this is just one step on the way to getting justice. The US says fighting terrorism is a top priority and that the US has resolve to go after those who support ISIS. The unique operation to bring the ISIS members to the US was long and complex. They were captured in 2018 and held by the Syrian Democratic Forces. They were held in detention and often gave interviews where they seemed to hold court in civilian clothes, sometimes treated with respect by the journalists who interviewed them. They were treated as curiosities and an almost fetish over meeting ISIS members face-to-face. Later in October 2019 – when the US began to withdraw from part of eastern Syria – the men were apparently transported to Iraq. It took another year to bring them back to the US.
The US says that it coordinates support to family members of hostages and supported families after incidents occur. Also the US says that it won’t rest until all US captives are returned, according to the FBI statements during the press conference.