Two men accused of killing alum James Foley charged in the United States

Photo+by+Associated+Press

Photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

Photo by Associated Press

Two Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters who were accused of playing a role of kidnapping and murdering Western hostages, including Marquette alum James Foley, have been charged in their deaths and are in FBI custody in the United States.

The ISIS fighters, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, are two of four members of an ISIS affiliated group called the “Beatles.” They were known for their British accents and their role in torturing and killing hostages.

Kotey and Elsheikh will be prosecuted in federal court in Virginia. They are charged with hostage-taking resulting in death, which was facilitated with ransom demands, terror and abuse.

Terwillger said Kotey and Elsheikh will be provided counsel if they cannot afford it, along with medical care and three meals a day while they are in custody, coupled with “the due process of law,” something he said the American hostages did not receive.

“I’m incredibly grateful,” Diane Foley, James’ mother, said in an interview with the Marquette Wire. “I am incredibly grateful to our government, FBI, Department of Justice, as well as our allies in the United Kingdom.”

Diane said it has been the work of many people in the government, along with many “caring individuals.”

According to a Oct. 7 statement made by The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, of which Diane is the president and founder, they have deep gratitude “to all who have worked tirelessly to bring Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, the two detainees currently in U.S. military custody in Iraq, to face trial in the U.S.”

Diane said she did not know when she would start to see justice for her son who was murdered six year ago.

“There have been many blocks to this point,” Diane said. “One of the blocks was the fact that the death penalty was on the table and that was unacceptable to the justice system in the United Kingdom.”

In a recent United Kingdom Supreme Court ruling, the U.K. is expected to share evidence that “U.S. prosecutors have said they believe is vital for a trial to take place.” The U.S. dropped the death penalty against Kotey and Elsheikh in order for the U.K. to share evidence with the United States prosecution.

“That has opened the door to this possibility,” Diane said.

Diane said she was against the use of the death penalty since the beginning of seeking justice.

“I really feel that violence begets more violence,” she said. “I feel that these young men should have a fair trial and also a chance to understand fully what the suffering and anguish they’ve inflicted on so many people as well as have time to make amends themselves.”

The Foley Foundation statement said they are grateful to Attorney General William Barr and the U.S. Justice Department for the decision to waive the death penalty in order for the U.K. to share critical evidence in prosecution of Kotey and Elsheikh in the United States.

Foley was a ’96 Marquette alum. He was killed and beheaded in August 2014.  (should we say executed?) Foley was a teacher and fiction writer before becoming a war correspondent during the Syrian civil war in 2011. During that time, he was captured and held hostage for 44 days by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. After returning home for a brief stint, he returned to Syria in 2012, where shortly after, he was captured by ISIS and eventually slain.

Photo by Associated Press (Photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS) NICOLE TUNG

Other Western hostages include Peter Kassig, Kayla Mueller and Steven Sotloff, who were taken hostage and killed by members of the Islamic State in Syria. They were journalists or aid workers covering the Syrian civil war and humanitarian crisis.

Tom Durkin, who met Foley during their undergraduate years and remained friends with him until Foley’s death, said he is personally grateful Elsheikh and Kotey were brought to the U.S. to face the justice system.

“They will have their day in court and my hope is that justice is served,” Durkin said. “I don’t wish to see them die. I do wish to see them held accountable for what they’ve done.”

The Foley Foundation said in its statement that this will be the first step in the pursuit of justice for these Americans who saw the suffering of Syrian people and wanted to help.

“We are hopeful that the U.S. government will finally be able to send the important message that if you harm Americans, you will never escape justice. And when you are caught, you will face the full power of American law,” the statement said.

Diane said she is also hopeful the two men will have a fair trial.

“I am really grateful this is the first step and I am hoping that it will open the doors to other prosecutions into the United Nations to really address the many human rights crimes that have occurred in Syria over the last eight years,” she said.

Terwillger said the driver of the families of the American hostages is what led to the news today. He said he looks forward to continuing to work with the families toward justice.

“ISIS will not have the last word when it comes to your children, you will,” Terwillger said.

Diane said she is proud of her son who aspired to be a man of moral courage.

“I feel that our world and country is in great need of moral courage today. Not only in our journalists, but in our educators, in any walk of life,” Diane said. “It’s always a challenge to do the right thing. It’s not always the easy way at all. I’m very proud of that and I pray that through the Foley Foundation, that he will continue to inspire many young people … to continue to seek justice and truth and whatever they do in their lives.”

Benjamin Wells contributed to this report. 

This story was written by Natallie St. Onge. She can be reached at natallie.stonge@marquette.edu.