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ISIS captive's mother: 'He's an innocent journalist'

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 4:20 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Shirley Sotloff pleads directly to the leader of ISIS
  • "Please release my child," she says
  • Steven Sotloff disappeared while reporting in Syria last year

(CNN) -- A mother's plea to the terrorists holding her son hostage: No individual should be punished for events he cannot control.

The mother is Shirley Sotloff, and she speaks directly to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video broadcast Wednesday on Al Arabiya Network.

Her son, freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, appeared last week in an ISIS video showing the decapitation of American journalist James Foley.

The militant in the video warns that Steven Sotloff's fate depends on what President Barack Obama does next in Iraq.

ISIS is threatening to execute Steven Joel Sotloff
ISIS is threatening to execute Steven Joel Sotloff
Shirley Sotloff made a plea for her son\'s life to the leader of ISIS
Shirley Sotloff made a plea for her son's life to the leader of ISIS

A day after the video was posted, Obama vowed that the United States would be "relentless" in striking back against ISIS.

"Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants. Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson," Shirley Sotloff said in the rare public appeal. "He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak."

The journalist has no control over what the United States government does, and he should not be held responsible for its actions, she says.

"He's an innocent journalist," she said.

Friends of ISIS captive Sotloff speak out admiringly of his talent, passion

The mother appeals to al-Baghdadi's self-declared title of caliph of the Islamic State.

As caliph, he has the power to grant amnesty to Steven Sotloff, the mother said.

"I ask you to please release my child," she said.

Steven Sotloff disappeared while reporting from Syria in August 2013, but his family kept the news secret, fearing harm to him if they went public.

Out of public view, the family and a number of government agencies have been trying to gain Sotloff's release for the past year.

Sotloff, 31, grew up in South Florida with his mother, father and younger sister. He majored in journalism at the University of Central Florida. His personal Facebook page lists musicians like the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Miles Davis and movies like "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Big Lebowski" as favorites. On his Twitter page, he playfully identifies himself as a "stand-up philosopher from Miami."

In 2004, Sotloff left UCF and moved back to the Miami area.

He graduated from another college, began taking Arabic classes and subsequently picked up freelance writing work for a number of publications, including Time, Foreign Policy, World Affairs and the Christian Science Monitor. His travels took him to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey -- among other countries -- and eventually Syria.

The following is the full text of Shirley Sotloff's video statement:

I'm sending this message to you, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ... the caliph of the Islamic State.

I am Shirley Sotloff. My son, Steven, is in your hands. Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants.

Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson. He's an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak.

We've not seen Stephen for over a year, and we miss him very much. We want to see him home safe and sound and to hug him.

Since Stephen's capture, I've learned a lot about Islam. I've learned that Islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others.

Stephen has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He's an innocent journalist.

I've always learned that you, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you to please release my child. As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.

I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to set the example of the Prophet Mohammed, who protected people of the Book.

I want what every mother wants: to live to see her children's children.

I plead with you to grant me this.

Opinion: Foley is a reminder why freelance reporting is so dangerous

CNN's Brian Stelter and AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.

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