IS Beatles terror suspects El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey appear in US court

El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey. Credit: AP

It was just after 5pm when El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey appeared by video link in a Virginia court to hear the accusations against them.

They had just landed from an American base in Iraq.

These were their first hours on Western soil for many years. They were both wearing masks to protect against Covid. The charges against them detailed a very different danger.



Both were handcuffed. By the way they moved their legs, were most likely shackled.

El Shafee Elsheikh appeared first - his hair unkempt, he kept trying to tuck it behind his ears. He kept taking off his mask, too. In the end it hung from his right ear.

El Shafee Elsheikh, right, with Alexanda Kotey Credit: AP/Hussein Malla

By the third count his eyes roamed the room, he chewed his bottom lip and leaned back in the chair. He was asked if he wanted a court appointed lawyer. As he started to speak he was warned by the judge this was not the time to be making statements.

In a strong London accent he asked whose jurisdiction he was being held under, before asking if he was under arrest.

"I’ve not had any time to consult with anyone," he said.

"With all due respect I just came here off a military base in Iraq so I have no money. I want to know whose detention I am under. I want my rights."

He was told he would get them and taken to quarantine in a cell.

Watch: ITV News Security Editor Rohit Kachroo spoke to Elsheikh before he was transferred to US custody in 2019:

Alexanda Kotey came next, his head shaved he kept his mask on throughout. He too listened as eight counts were read. He too told the court he wanted to know what was going on.

"It’s all foreign to me," he said before saying he had not been at liberty to contact his lawyers in the UK. Within 15 minutes he too was taken to a cell.

Both will appear in court on Friday.

The US authorities - and no doubt the US President - know the importance of being seen to seek justice for their citizens who died at the hands of the Islamic State.

They want both men tried in public and at speed. As one lawyer told me today: "This court is known as the 'Docket Rocket' - we want this done quick."