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British IS Beatle El Shafee Elsheikh avoids notorious ‘Supermax’ prison

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 27/09/2022 Jamie Johnson
El Shafee Elsheikh was given eight life sentences and told by a judge that he will never be released - AFP © AFP El Shafee Elsheikh was given eight life sentences and told by a judge that he will never be released - AFP

Convicted Islamic State ‘Beatle’ El Shafee Elsheikh will avoid spending the rest of his life in solitary confinement at a ‘concrete box’ supermax prison after his lawyers argued that he is a suicide risk.

The 34-year-old, former British citizen from Shepherd's Bush in London, was given eight life sentences and told by a judge that he will never be released for his role in the terrorist organisation in Syria.

Elsheikh was found guilty in April of eight charges, including hostage taking resulting in death, and conspiracy to commit murder.

But now, a new report claims that instead of facing decades in solitary confinement among some of America’s most dangerous criminals at Colorado’s Florence ADX Supermax prison, he will be held next door at the USP Florence High facility.

There, he will be able to mix with the general prison population - rather than be isolated.

“Sending Mr Elsheikh, an individual who is already showing signs of mental and physical deterioration from his present and past detention, to Florence ADX is not an appropriate sentence,” his lawyers said in US court papers, reported by The Mirror.

Four American victims

The move has been described as “a kick in the teeth” to victims of the British cell, which include the families of four Americans - the journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

The first three were executed in videotaped beheadings that were circulated online.

A source quoted as a ‘US prison insider’ told The Mirror: “Quite how Elsheikh avoided the supermax none of the victim’s families know.

“They were sure he was to see out his days at ADX, but they have now been told he has been sent to the lesser penitentiary. It’s a huge kick in the teeth.

“The supermax is reserved for the worst of the worst, and Elsheikh’s CV shows he is more than qualified.

“But he’s avoided being kept alongside some of the world’s most dangerous men and dying alone.”

Islamic State terrorist Alexanda Kotey, who was part of the notorious cell dubbed "The Beatles" was extradited to the US in 2020 - Hussein Malla /AP © Provided by The Telegraph Islamic State terrorist Alexanda Kotey, who was part of the notorious cell dubbed "The Beatles" was extradited to the US in 2020 - Hussein Malla /AP

The ADX supermax is home to criminals including the British ‘shoe bomber’ Richard Reid, Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and cartel leader Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.

Elsheikh, and another "Beatle" Alexanda Kotey, were captured by Kurdish forces in Syria in 2018, then held in Iraq before being extradited to the US two years later.

In April, Kotey, 38, originally from Paddington, London, was jailed for life in the same courtroom in Virginia after pleading guilty.

Prosecutors contended that there were three main members of the "Beatles" terror cell -  Elsheikh, Kotey, and Mohammed Emwazi, who became known as "Jihadi John" and was later killed in a US drone strike.

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