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Read this: Face to face with the ISIS "Beatles"

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Face to face with the ISIS "Beatles"…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 place this year in the US you remember the story behind adel Sheffield shake is accused of being a member of the Islamic state group and of being one of the Notorious ISS Beatles name by the hostages because of the British accents and accused of torturing and beheading journalists and aid workers ITV News Rohit kachroo secured interviews with a shake and another of these men were transferred into the US custody there's interviews are expected to form part of the trial.

So what are the ethics of interviewing suspected members of a terrorist group? Is it ever ok to give publicity to people accused of such serious crimes and how do you even go about doing it Rohit kachroo welcome to the media show and let's start right at the beginning of this story.

You know who were.

Beatles and when did you first come across them? Everyone will remember years ago 2014 2015 The Rise the rapid rise of Islamic state group and the fact that they started this process of taking Western hostages, and they're not only we here in the news about it.

We were seeing video of this group was filming the executions by beheading and they were posting these in stylised propaganda videos online the video similar to those posted after the murders of two American journalists sautela this time to a British audience in a jumpsuit with the the Jihadi in black clothes moth standing over him David Haines was a British Hero

The fact that an aid worker was taken held and brutally murdered at the hands of ISA sums up what this organisation stands for they are killing and slaughtering 5 people Muslims Christians minorities across Iraq and Syria that there was a group here of for British man who some of the hostages referred to as the beach because of a four of them because of the British accents and what we knew was that one of the figures who turned out to be a leading figure with this man who had been mysteriously referred to us people didn't know who he was we knew that the authorities in the UK and the US had a fairly good idea.

Who it was we like many organisations set out to try to I'd actually that the first scoop I went to the Washington Post and which reported around the same time as as a Lucy Manning at the BBC the name.

Jihadi John as Muhammad and was you did make it your mission to identify some of the others, how did you do it? Who did you identify? How did you track them down together rumours that different people here in London but also I can Syria things that we being sad in in the corridors in Whitehall and his name kept recurring alexanda kotey and el shafee.


We talk talk at length to some of the hostages who were released we've tried to find pictures to show them at one point we find old dating website profile for alexanda.


The word a lot of Germany's looking at this and it was a really difficult process ridiculous questions based on what was going on in the country.

What time does it was but once you've identified them what you trying to make contact with them? Is it possible to make contact with someone for my after they have a press office? You know can they put someone up for interview?

Likely there is no press office for Islamic state.

You know that the word roots into the group you know for example many people who left their own homes who left countries to go out there wearing contact with their families back home.

What became clear pre-owned was that these men want just sort of roaming around the shop.

You know they won't just rolling down the street in raka saying hello to people in the cafe protected people so protected.

They were they were conscious of their digital footprint.

They were out of their location because remember you know the UK government wanted to track them down and actually Jihadi John Mohammed emwazi was eventually killed by a drone and they knew that they were wanted men so we had no direct contact with them the next thing that happened with that suddenly they turned up in a Kurdish

Just before we get into the detail of how you then met two of them.

Just let's talk about the victims and their families.

You know you just remind us who were the laundry aid workers and journalist.

They were people who had gone back to Syria to do good things in the case of people like James Foley the American journalist.

He was about to tell the stories of suffering in Syria and also aid workers people like David Haines from Perth in Scotland to had gone actor sewer to help they all left behind these families including here in the UK and several in the us as well as you made contact with why did you do that? I mean I can see in that obviously adds a human Element that there are also risks involved your do you worry about we traumatising people about asking families to relive what must have been the worst experiences of their lives.

Mast cells and have asked ourselves over the last 5/6 years almost almost every possible ethical question in journalism, you know the first family member who we had regular contact with was the daughter of David Haines Bethlehem she was incredibly younger the time.

She was at school.

She was a teenager when her father was taken some of those early contacts came on a very basic level because we were seeking comment on events that are happening including for example them that Jihadi John Mohammed emwazi was killed by a drone strike.

We wanted to know what people thought what people would directly affected or he know that was episode of legitimate exercise but over the years.

I think we become closer to too many of them, let's get into a bit more of the detail about the interviews that you then got.

You had several can you just get you some up who you spoke to and when so we interviewed el shafee, elsheikh and alexanda kotey.

These were the two members of The Beatles who were then later transferred to the United States getting interviews with these people was not easy word came back early on that coat.

Didn't give an interview ITV news and a suggestion was that because of our role in putting his name out there in the first place.

I he had particular reticence are in terms of to us, but did you have an interview with no we didn't know we went out there with with Bethlehem the daughter of David Haines the murdered aid worker and the reason we were there was because we wanted to follow.

Play Journey she had this invitation from the Kurdish authorities to to to go in to see some of the locations that were significant in her father's story you know we went with her to an ISA account where she met women who had travel from around the world to go.

Enjoy Isis he was someone who had carried out her own personal thorough investigation.

She has folders and folders of maps and details and she wanted herself to get to the truth.

Bethany has asked to travel towards the mountains outside rocker she believes.

He's might be the same steps her father made shortly before his death.

What are the tracks because that really evident in the video that there's a track on down behind it makes you just want to go off and time find them which is something that I can't do.

But to know it's somewhere and it does prefer that comfort when we were there.

We got essentially a tap on the shoulder and by the Kurdish authorities.

We were given the opportunity to meet I'll shake and coty.

What did they say to you in those interviews well, I went in with the specific aim of asking questions on behalf of Bethany they had done interviews with CNN with aptn and with the Washington Post about their journey about their story.

You know where mindful of the fact that we had perhaps only 15 minutes to talk to them and they were very clear that they were innocent right because I understand that sent Alexander Katie has changed his plea.

I think you might say they admitted in that conversation that they had a what were they turned as a peripheral role that they were you know I'll shakes head.

driving the van so I ask Pacific questions about David Haines

Can only offer answers to things which are witnessed?

As for the execution in the remains in the answers today, did you move David Haines from place? He could have been a month then see you my driver van which included some of the hospital and where are we driving from and to hold you see you were involved in the detention in the cab.

Opening time you just admitted that you will be moving around from location allocation during his captivity.

You know when you when you were due today.

I was involved in a detention and it would mean that I captured him and guided him and help him and this is true.

I didn't do any of that I had an important interaction with others during a detention in captivity.

Yes and the moving and Bethany farmer from location to location.

No problem on the both of them.

They became quite confrontational alexanda kotey particularly already.

I'm asking you.

Will you apologise to forget everything I've said before because I just find it if you apologise to Bethany questioning irritating.

Would you apologise apologise to Bethany Hines

I think I have already said that I don't know maybe it didn't get broadcast to me BC you have an opportunity now Bethany will see this footage.

You have an opportunity to apologise for her if you so wish I would say it is I regret that for her that that was the Fate of her father.

That's not something that.

I'll would have wished for.

It's not something I'm in agreement with if there was anything that I had done which may have.

Let auguste some kind of distress to her or her father why he was in detention, then I apologise for that alexanda kotey said that we were doing the same purely for entertainment and he didn't want to give ITV the opportunity to to to to have an entertainment show which feel like an unusual admission because actually before those conversations to place you know I had a pre conversation.

I looked each other in the eye and I said do you want to do this interview if they turned round and said no we don't want this we were more than prepared to get up and walk out of the room and I'm you know we had a WhatsApp group without editor Hera head of news Gathering I had a foreign news.

We were putting them on every single thing that happened but you know it no point did any of those people say this and that you've got to get the interview and sign it off today and presumably in the BBC

Absolutely you know I was always mindful of the fact that whatever happened in that room could be used in a court of law that this may well be scrutinised by a jury at some point in the future.

So how am I did the sign of have to be at what level did it go let it go up so I don't know the likes of to come to the BBC but is now headed by tnf by senior managers at ITV as well and you know part of the station around that was what happened in the room you example there were armed Kurdish guards inside that room.

It's a prison perhaps.

That's not surprising but one of the things I mean the producer of the cameraman turned around and said to the Kurdish supervisors with they can't be in here.

You know I'm not going to do an interview with with.

What's man from the Militia group standing behind me almost garden this conversation and it says why why you worried about that? I didn't want to have conversations with P that will leading News at Ten that that we were making a big splash of with people who had been forced to give the interviews that they had to give her the answers that they gave to us and our conversation the four of us from ITV News there was a senior senior producer of Middle East produce Olivia by you know who has who has covered conflict zones and these sorts of the areas.

We have a senior cameraman Mark Jervis who who covers violence in Belfast and we had our well plugged in local producer.

You know what some people the local fixer.

We're all in this room.

We had the conversation and we made the call there and then on the ground internet connection with slipping away.

You know we didn't have the opportunity at that last moment to just

Double check from the editor, but I think they trusted us to make the right decision and I'm really confident that we did make the right decision and I know now in the trial of l-shape that that issue of those Media interviews and the ethics around some of those conversations will pay quite significantly about the moment.

Just summarise if you wouldn't mind what you think it came out your specific interviews with those two men.

What did they say admitted for the first time in one of our interviews that he played some role in previous conversations.

He pretty much said I was nothing to do with this but in that first interview that we did in 2019 he he said yeah, you know I was I was primarily involved as he turned it, but he actually admitted that he was sending proof of Life emails emails which I've read now from.

Aside from the families of the victims he was sending proof of Life emails to families particularly in the United States and demanding Ransomes the family of one of the hostages kalamullah.

He was in touch with her family her elderly parents in Arizona demanding that they pay or that they raise millions and millions of Euros to pay as a ransom in order to secure the release of a daughter he admitted for the first time publicly and that in our first interview and he hasn't he he has since pleaded guilty and admitted are all charges in the United States have final conversation with EL shafee, elsheikh and alexanda kotey.

Had a slightly different we were there with with with the story of one person in mind the end of the family of David Haines and we thought that it would be a legitimate and Anna

Editorial exercise to try to seek from him the truth if he had it if either of these men had it about what happened to this British hostage who killed on camera and you know he admitted to some things but he still says listen.

I don't know the details.

It's now turned out that in his interviews with us interrogator which happened around the same time.

It's now been revealed in court that in fact he did give specific details about the death of David Haines and so is the importance of the interviews Alexander cosita.

Love he sort of shouted at me.

He said I don't like your line of questioning and he said you're just here to create entertainment.

You know know know we really want an actually you know it's a typical.

It's a difficult line to tread because you know that these.

Stations necessarily have to be at the very least slightly Confrontation we've spent the last 8 days here in Syria with David's daughter.


what would you say to her about what's happened to her father?

How far it is so hard to say I haven't got anything else to what would you say to Bethlehem to bed? What happened to her father already said wanted to say.

She wants to know where the remains of her father are.

I want to ask.

If I had information about that then we'll be seeing haven't discussions so you have nothing to worry about the location of his remains you can believe it or not.

It's not going to change anything so that day and we drove Across the Border and we got to a hotel in Erbil in Iraq we shows Bethany the four rashes of the conversation.

We need to all of this that at some point the police would want that material which is a difficult call journalistic question because they have increased powers under the terrorism act to seek material that they feel can help at this investigation.

We been here before we go on to CT20 hand over the rushes the UN broadcast material of an interview that I did with shamima Begum

Because we didn't feel that that that the line had been crossed.

You are a social drop.

You are a business of making the television, so just tell me if you know how you turned it into television where were you putting it? I was it true that 10 was interview for a few days.

We we came back to London and what happened in the interim was a Turkish incursion in lots of Syria and and and alexanda kotey of Syria just days after we left into US custody inside Iraq and so what we what we wanted to do was to tell their story in the context of Bethany story so what we ended up doing was running at three-part series which lead News at Ten on the first night.

We ran.

You know for 8 minutes which is fairly almost unprecedented in you know ITV News terms and News Bulletin times we rounded 8 minutes.

Which started her journey into Syria which talked about her feelings about going there? You know which interviews or not.

We have that for the following night and then we try that at the at the end of our story on news at 10 at night and then the following night we returned on News at Ten with our with our conversation off the back of a story with Bethany witch naturally followed on and also great business presumably via ITV and it's a commercial entity after all I can't say we made a penny out of it.

I guess it's good for us in terms of our in you know we're here to tell stories and we're here to tell them well, and we're here to tell stories at the BBC and Channel 4 news on turning on Sky on telling you know the there's no money to be made on an assignment like that in fact these things are expensive this.

There's only a lot.

I need to be lost.

Can you touched earlier on it on the ethics of it, but you know there are some major ethical questions you know is it ethical to interview a member of ISS at all.

Are you human potentially no whitewashing what they did what what do you think about that one of the things that slightly changed dynamic was that by this point by early autumn of 2019 we had passed the Territorial defeat as they no longer had a so-called caliphate.

So they were no longer on the rise.

There was no stream.

Live British people you remember several years ago there were hundreds of people from the UK who were going out to join us.

That was no longer happening and so is a consequence of that this question of where we were giving the oxygen of publicity to a group like that felt like it was less of a concern but because of that because of those concerned.

It was all the more important for me to be robust.

In my questioning it was an exercise in seeking brand new information to make our viewers better informed.

Can I just ask you to bring us up to the present if you like, you know there is a trial about to start in America just tell us who is accused and how they pleading.

Well, Shafi el-Sheikh is the electric board member of the cell.

I he was brought to the US at the same time as alexanda kotey, and he said he's not guilty Cote pleaded guilty a few weeks ago el-Sheikh.

Didn't do the same thing and actually is part of coatis.



He will not be compelled to testify against his old friend el shafee elsheikh, so he is accused of being involved in the kidnap the holding hostage and The Killing of of American hostages to appear on the chargesheet American trial in an American court and your interviews are being used along with those from the Washington Post sky various other organisations.

Can you explain what they was interviews been used for in custody?

And what the defensive saying is that they were mistreated with that they food was withheld and what the prosecution is saying was actually this interview shows how they look just days before they were transferred to us custody and and their argument is actually they look like they're wearing in good health and in good shape, but there's another important part of which the prosecution want to which is comparing what el-Sheikh told me in our conversation in September 2019 and what he was telling American interrogators because it's different exactly slightly different details for example.

He told me that he had no specific details about the death of David Haines he told American interrogators that actually he indeed did some specific details cases that will start soon.

I'm in before we end this conversation.

Let's have a think about the bigger picture.

I sent you know in the middle of a global pandemic right now.

He's crimes took place.

Time ago and David Hayes was murdered in 2014 how much coverage do you expect the British Media to give the trial is there still the interest that there was.

It's a really really interesting question and I hope there is significant coverage because you know we just move on from thing so quickly don't worry x salute Lee you know I mean you know I was looking through through material from the time that Jihadi John wick was killed the other day.

You is David Cameron making that statement and and and why did you buy medicine strange then important not just because you know there is very very very few more serious allegations that that have been made against who were raised in the UK important because you know the importance to their victims who still have to endure the torments and and and the torch on the agony.

Still don't know where their loved ones remains are but important to all of us as a society as a country really to try and understand why this happened.

I mean you know we can disorder dismiss these cases as one-offs, but but they're not one or two I mean here was a sale of 4 people and who operated within a vast infrastructure within as and then there were hundreds of British people who decided many of them perhaps most of them knowing for while the reality of life and i s that actually will be to go in live there.

So you know I I hope that this trial reopens a window perhaps in people's thoughts into the story of this organisation and more importantly into the story of its victims catch you thank you so much global Security as it at ITV news.

Thank you so much for joining us today.

It was really interesting and thank you to her.

John Boland the media show will be back at the same time next week but for now.

Thank you so much for listening goodbye.

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