Hostage survivor testifies at trial of ISIS member accused of murdering several Americans

On the second day of the trial, Italian aid worker Federico Motka told the jury how he was captured, imprisoned and tortured by the terrorist cell along with other hostages, including Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.
The so-called Beatles – as the hostages called them because of their British accent – were the hostages’ primary henchmen, and according to the Justice Department, Elsheikh is the last of the group to stand trial. His co-accused pleaded guilty in September and the other member, Mohamed Emwazi, was killed in a drone strike in 2015.

Motka told the jury he was arrested in 2013 along with British laborer David Haines on a trip to Syria to better understand the needs of refugees in the region.

“I think we’re being kidnapped,” Motka testified as he told his boss on the phone as masked men armed with guns surrounded their car, eventually pulling them out and pushing them into the trunk of their car.

Motka was taken to various locations during the 14 months he was held captive, including a small, low-ceilinged room that the hostages called “the box.” There they endured what Motka called “the regime of punishment.”

Beatings, starvation and execution

The Beatles, along with someone the hostages called “The Punisher”, beat and tortured Haines, Motka, the journalist Foley – one of the Americans named in the charges against Elsheikh – and his colleague, the British journalist John Cantlie.

Motka said the group distinguished the Beatles – who they called John, George and Ringo – by their preferred hitting style.

“George was more into boxing. John, he kicked a lot,” Motka said, adding that Ringo, who prosecutors say is Elsheikh, “liked wrestling (and) headlocks.” One of those headlocks caused Foley to pass out, Motka said out on Thursday.

According to Motka, the hostages were regularly kicked, punched and beaten with a cable by the Beatles, and forced to “hold stress positions for hours”. Motka testified they were also forced to fight each other for their entertainment.

“We barely had the muscle strength to raise our arms,” ​​Motka said.

According to Motka, the Beatles took him and several other hostages by waterboarding. “That was by far the worst thing that happened,” he said after describing the loss of oxygen, water inhalation and the panic. “Not a minute’s rest”

The hostages lost 50 to 70 pounds at the time of the waterboarding and were later completely emaciated, Motka said. When they got food, they couldn’t keep it down. During a long journey in an ISIS caravan, the hostages survived for several days in the back of a truck, he testified.

The courtroom was also shown video of a Syrian hostage being shot in the head who was kneeling on the edge of a pre-dug grave.

Motka identified himself among the group of hostages who knelt on the other side of the grave and displayed handwritten signs demanding ransom for their release.

One of the Beatles, Motka testified, asked him what he thought of the execution.

“It’s horrific,” Motka said.

The Beatle, Motka testified, replied, “That’s a good answer.”

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