“It is vital to listen, even to the most heinous criminals”

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His image and the tone of his voice, loving and slow, come via videoconference from his home in New Hampshire. After 45 minutes answering painful questions, Diane Foley He will end the interview because he has an appointment that he has been waiting for eight years: the arraignment of the charges against two of those accused of abducting, torturing and brutally murdering his son.

-What did you feel when you learned that the alleged murderers of your son would be tried in the United States?
-That was almost a miracle. We have worked very hard for years and I am very grateful to all the people who have helped us get here. It is a giant step, but it is only a beginning.

-What expectations do you have?
-I hope it is a fair trial and that the defendants implicate more directly responsible for the kidnapping, torture and murder of American, British and Spanish citizens, and the suffering of the people of Syria. I also hope they give us answers, such as the whereabouts of the remains of our loved ones.

-Does everyone have the right to be heard? Even your son’s executioners?
-Of course. Listening to even those responsible for the most heinous crimes is vital. It’s time for these two men to find out what they are being accused of, give their side of the story, and have a fair trial. The Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey need to understand the suffering they have caused and have the opportunity to make amends for their actions.

-In a world tinged with hatred, you insist on love and compassion. Will the trial represent these values ​​or will it be revenge?
-I hope it shows the world that we believe in justice. I have been against the death penalty from the beginning. Violence only brings more violence and hatred. It is essential that we pursue the truth to the end and hold ourselves accountable, but without losing compassion.

-Is it easy to transmit this message in your country?
-Not. Many people feel that with the death of Jihadi John [jefe de los captores, víctima de un dron] y Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi [el líder del Estado Islámico, que se suicidó acosado por el Ejército de EEUU] justice was served, but I don’t see it that way. In addition, they died as martyrs and took a lot of information to the grave.

-Trump said that “Al-Baghdadi died like a dog.”
– For me that is not justice. Justice is giving the accused the opportunity to give his side of the story. I pray for the United States, because we are an arrogant country and we think we are so powerful & mldr; We need to be more humble, learn from other countries, value our citizens more, and have the courage and compassion to do the right thing.

“It is essential to pursue the truth until the end and demand responsibilities, but without losing compassion “

-Do you have many reproaches to make to your government for its policy of not negotiating with terrorists in kidnappings?
-A lot, although I can understand your arguments. Spain took it seriously and acted in the case of Marc (Marginedas), Javier (Espinosa) and Ricardo (García Vilanova) and I am very sorry that our Government did not do the same. They didn’t even listen to us, and that’s partly why we started the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. Our mission is to make the return of innocent American hostages a priority and to protect courageous journalism.

-How many doors did you knock on without getting an answer?
-Phew! I felt so, so lonely, especially in the beginning. My deep faith in God and in my son gave me strength, especially during his captivity. I’m a nurse, I don’t know anything about politics or journalism, but I was horrified by the government’s zero interest.

-Of the families affected by the kidnappings, you were the only one who decided to make it public.
-Yes, and I must admit that maybe it was a mistake. Jim was kidnapped on November 22, 2012 and the FBI warned us not to say anything, but I was desperate for information. We had no idea where he was and hoped some of his colleagues could help us find him. But in hindsight, perhaps that made Jim a more valuable hostage to the jihadists.

– That reflection is very hard.
-It is the anguishing decision that all families face in this situation. No one seemed to be listening and the representative that the Obama Administration sent to families treated us with appalling coldness.

“Obama said Jim was his priority, but all it did was hinder his return home “

-Good thing he worked for a Nobel Peace Prize …
-It was very disappointing. Both Jim and we supported Obama, but his administration was very clear that negotiating with terrorists was a mistake. That attitude led them to underestimate the power of these organizations. Obama himself tried to make changes in late 2015 and progress has been made since. The Trump Administration has continued in this line and is giving more importance to hostage management.

– Did you talk to Obama?
-Only after the murder. He told me that Jim had been his priority, ha! Of course, it wasn’t true. Maybe he thought about it, but all it did was hinder his return home. No, Jim was never his priority, but many people in his Administration realized how wrong this policy was and that consoles me.

-If your son had worked as a journalist for a large network, would it have been different?
-Yes, the fact that he and Steven Sotloff were freelancers made them insignificant; They had no security or spokespersons in the media or in the Administration; They only had us, but we were too weak.

-He shared the faith with his son, who said a very moving phrase: “When I pray, I feel that I can touch you.”
-Yes, I felt that God was taking us both by the hand. Jim was the oldest of our five children. As a mother, you plant a seed and you don’t know how it will grow. I had not realized the extent to which my son had become a man of moral stature. He worked as a teacher with vulnerable and angry young people – which is still paradoxical – and he was convinced that to be a good journalist and find the truth, one must have high moral courage and listen to all voices.

-Since we are human, mothers have seen their children die violently.
-Sincerely, I feel compassion for the mother of El Shafee Elsheikh, one of the executioners. She has fought hard not to have her son extradited, because she knew that in the UK she would have a lesser sentence. I can see the love she has for her son and I think we need to show compassion for these wayward young men. It is so sad that they have replaced all the love they received as children with such terrible hatred.

“I don’t know if the media were aware of what [al difundir la decapitación de su hijo] exposed millions to unlimited violence “

-Would you meet with her?
-Of course. She also suffers, although I think it was arrogant of her to ask us for help to get a less harsh sentence.

-The image of Jim seconds before his beheading went around the world …
-I found out about his death because a journalist called me crying and asked me if I had seen Twitter … What you say makes me feel all that pain in my heart again.

-I apologize.
-I don’t know if the media were aware that they were spreading an image that exposed millions of people to unlimited violence and the propaganda of the Islamic State, but I have to forgive them and it comforts me to know that, since then, they have been more cautious.

-Can you share your most precious image of Jim?
-It’s a photo of the last day he came to see us at home. We celebrated his birthday and ate paella, because he loved Spanish food. It was raining and we took a photo under the porch. That photo of my precious son is my most precious image. Within a few days he was returning to Syria. I remember telling him that I didn’t have to go back, but he told me that it was his passion and that he had promises to keep. He told me he would be back for Christmas.

-…
-It breaks my heart to remember him, but it consoles me that his great heart continues to beat in all the journalists who continue his moral legacy and in all the good people who feel love and compassion.

The judicial battle

November 22, 2012 James Foley was kidnapped in Syria and in August 2014 he was beheaded by the Islamic State. Foley shared captivity, among others, with EL PERIÓDICO reporter Marc Marginedas.

Of his four captors, two died and the other two, British, were arrested in Iraq in 2018. After a lengthy court battle, the The United Kingdom agreed to extradite them when the United States promised not to apply the death penalty.

Akexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh They will be tried for the torture and murder of Foley, Steven Sotloff, Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassing. The defendants deny the charges.

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