“The parents of murdered journalist Steven Sotloff, who was killed by Islamic State extremists, were warned by the White House that they could face criminal prosecution if they paid a ransom to free their son, the family spokesperson told Yahoo News.
According to Barak Barfi, a friend of Sotloff who is serving as a spokesman for his family, the Sotloffs met with a White House counterterrorism official last May.
“The family felt completely and utterly helpless when they heard this,” Barfi said, adding that the journalist’s father was “shaking” after the meeting with the National Security Council official.
Barfi also said that he was at a separate meeting with State Department officials, one of whom mentioned the “material support” law several times and made it “clear” that ransoms to terrorists could result in criminal prosecutions.
The Obama administration follows a strict policy regarding such payments. Viewing it as a form of material aid to terrorist organizations, such money transfers could be considered a violation of federal laws.
News of Sotloff’s parents alleged warning came shortly after the mother of James Foley, another journalist murdered at the hands of Islamic State militants, told media that US officials repeatedly warned their family they may face criminal charges for supporting terrorism, when they considered paying a ransom.
“We were told that several times and we took it as a threat and it was appalling,” Foley’s mother Diane said in an interview with ABC News.
The Sotloffs “heard the same thing the Foleys did,” their spokesman said in his statement to Yahoo News. The families of three other hostages being held by the militants were also at the White House meeting, according to Yahoo News sources.
“We have found that terrorist organizations use hostage taking and ransoms as a critical source of financing for their organizations and that paying ransoms only puts other Americans in a position where they’re at even greater risk,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a press briefing. He declined to discuss conversations that administration officials had with the families.
News of the Sotloffs’ alleged statement broke while ISIS jihadists released a video which purports to show the beheading of yet another hostage, 44-year-old British aid worker David Haines.
Two US and several British hostages still remain in ISIS captivity.
The 31-year-old Steven Sotloff was captured in August 2013 while reporting from Aleppo in Syria. The Israeli-American was beheaded in early September this year by the Islamic State during a gruesome execution recorded on film and uploaded to the web. Sotloff became the second journalist after James Foley who was publicly murdered by the terrorists.
Sotloff’s parents have declined any media interviews since the execution of the first US journalist. The family’s last public address was a video message, in which Steven’s mother asked an ISIS’ caliph not to “punish my son for matters he has no control over.”
Later statements from the family came through their spokesperson Barak Barfi. “We will not allow our enemies to hold us hostage with the sole weapon they possess – fear,” one of the messages read by Barfi, said.
Earlier this week, Barak Barfi, who acts not only as a representative for the Sotloffs, but also is a research fellow at the New America Foundation, told CNN that Steven Sotloff was sold to Islamic State militants before they eventually beheaded him.
Sotloff was sold to ISIS by ‘moderate’ Syrian rebel group, family spokesman says
Announcing a military campaign to destroy the terrorist organization, US President Barack Obama called the murders of Foley and Sotloff “acts of barbarism.” A State Department spokesperson has previously said that “this government undertook every single opportunity to find and bring home these American citizens that are being held by ISIS.” “
Report By RT