British ISIS Beatles 'will be spared the death penalty by America'

British ISIS Beatles accused of beheading Westerners ‘will be spared the death penalty by America so they can be brought to the US and face trial’

  • El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are currently in US custody in Iraq
  • Accused of belonging to a four-man execution cell ISIS Beatles in Syria
  • British Supreme Court ruled UK could not share information on pair with Washington without assurances they will not face the death penalty
  • But US Attorney General Bill Barr believed to be dropping death penalty threat

America is willing to drop the threat of the death penalty in order to put the British ‘ISIS Beatles’ on trial, it was reported last night.

El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are accused of belonging to a four-man execution cell in Syria named after the band by their captives.

They are currently in US custody in Iraq. Moves to take them to the States for trial have been stalled for months.

A British Supreme Court judgment in March ruled that it was unlawful for the UK to share evidence with Washington without seeking assurances that the pair, accused of beheading Westerners, will not face the death penalty.

El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who are currently in US custody in Iraq, are accused of belonging to a four-man execution cell in Syria named after the band by their captives.

That was not something the US was prepared to give. But the Washington Post last night reported a possible change in the situation.

Sources told the paper that US Attorney General Bill Barr discussed the move at the White House, hoping it would facilitate Britain’s sharing of crucial evidence.

Barr told senior administration officials that he is willing to drop the death penalty if it gets British authorities to release the crucial evidence needed for the prosecution. 

Barr’s reversal on the death penalty came after recent pressure from Pentagon officials to get Kotey and Elsheikh out of US custody in Iraq, reported the Washington Post. 

The Pentagon has put pressure on the US Department of Justice to get the pair, both stripped of their British citizenships, out of Iraq and put on trial in America. FBI agents were said to be in London while a federal prosecutor was in Iraq gathering more evidence on Kotey and Elsheikh.

The men, both from London, were captured in January 2018 by Syrian Kurdish forces. They are implicated in the murder of IS hostages alongside Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, who was killed in 2015, and Aine Davis, who is in jail in Turkey.

The men are implicated in the murder of IS hostages alongside Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, who was killed in 2015, and Aine Davis, who is in jail in Turkey

The men, both from London, were captured in January 2018 by Syrian Kurdish forces. Left: El Shafee el-Sheikh; right: Alexanda Kotey

Emwazi appeared in a number of videos in which hostages, including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, were killed. Mr Barr’s decision marks ‘a fundamental shift in the discussion’, a senior official told the Post.

‘This was the first breakthrough we’ve had in a long time. The sense was, “We’re going to get this done. We’re going to get the diplomatic piece moving”.’

The British Government wants the pair tried in the US, where officials believe there is a more realistic chance of prosecution than in the UK.

But the Supreme Court decision, after a case brought by Elsheikh’s mother, meant the men faced the likelihood of being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Sources suggest that US Attorney General Bill Barr has discussed the idea of dropping the threat of the death penalty at the White House, hoping it would facilitate Britain’s sharing of crucial evidence

The court said the then home secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to share evidence with American authorities without assurances on the sentence breached data protection laws.

The US had said it was Britain’s responsibility to prosecute the men prior to them having their citizenships taken away in 2018.

Last year US forces plucked them from a Syrian prison as ‘high-profile targets’ following a Turkish invasion of northern Syria that threatened to further destabilise the region.

A deadline of yesterday to move them on had been set by the Department of Defence but Mr Barr’s intervention seems to have secured an extension for the time being.

An unnamed official said: ‘The Department of Defence does not want to hold them indefinitely in Iraq or elsewhere. The temporary facility that they are currently in was never designed to house detainees for extended periods of time.’

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