Jihadi Beatles could have faced trial in the UK because security minister’s claims not to have enough evidence ‘weren’t true’, Supreme Court is told
- Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey face death penalty if extradited to the US
- Ben Wallace said there was not enough evidence for them to be tried in the UK
- Trump is now considering sending the two British jihadists to Guantanamo Bay
Published: 20:56 EDT, 30 July 2019 | Updated: 21:03 EDT, 30 July 2019
Two Islamic State terrorists could have faced justice in Britain – even though a minister claimed there was not enough evidence for them to be tried, the Supreme Court heard yesterday.
In 2016, prosecutors had enough evidence to charge Alexanda Kotey – one of a gang of jihadis nicknamed The Beatles – with five counts of murder, and an arrest warrant was issued.
But Ben Wallace, the then security minister, told the Commons last year there was not enough evidence for Kotey or fellow jihadi Shafee El Sheikh to stand trial in Britain.
Alexanda Amon Kotey (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh are facing a possible death penalty in the US after being refused a trial in Britain
Sajid Javid, who was home secretary at the time, agreed to share evidence with American authorities so the men could stand trial in the US – after his predecessors Theresa May and Amber Rudd refused to do so without assurances that the men would not be executed.
The Supreme Court heard that Mr Javid was advised that President Donald Trump might ‘hold a grudge’ if the UK refused to share its evidence against the British-born men.
Last year, Donald Trump was said to be considering sending the two British jihadists to Guantanamo Bay, the US jail in Cuba, where they could be held for years without trial.
El Shafee Elsheikh, also known as ‘George’, is accused of belonging to a four-man cell of IS executioners
Supreme Court judges heard yesterday that Mr Javid’s decision last year was taken against the advice of civil servants at the Home Office and Foreign Office, who warned it would undermine Britain’s opposition to the death penalty.
But he did seek the views of the then foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who agreed he should agree to the US request.
Kotey, 35, and El Sheikh, 30, were captured in Syria in January 2018. They have admitted being in the IS cell that murdered British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines and US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, although they deny taking part in the killings.
Another cell member, former London university student Mohammed Emwazi, was nicknamed Jihadi John after appearing in IS videos showing the hostages being beheaded.
He was killed in a drone strike, while the fourth ‘Beatle’, Aine Davis, was jailed in Turkey.
El Sheikh’s mother, Maha Elgizouli, has begun a legal challenge against Mr Javid’s decision to share 600 witness statements gathered by British police with the US without seeking assurances that the men would not face execution if they were extradited and convicted.
El Shafee Elsheikh admitted being a member of the ISIS cell known as The Beatles and described his job as being to ransom western hostages back to their families
Both men were born and grew up in Britain, and Mrs Elgizouli wants them to stand trial in the UK, even though they have been stripped of their citizenship.
Her lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said she understood her son had to face justice, but did not believe he should be executed, adding: ‘She is solely concerned to protect her son from the death penalty.’ He told the court that Mr Javid, now Chancellor, abandoned ‘a long and honourable tradition on the part of this country of rejecting the death penalty as morally wrong’.
Despite the Crown Prosecution Service claiming there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to bring charges, and Mr Wallace’s statement backing this up, a judicial review against the Director of Public Prosecutions has found the CPS decided in 2016 it had evidence to charge Kotey.
The review also suggested there could be enough evidence to charge El Sheikh with membership of IS, which carries a jail sentence of up to ten years.
Mr Fitzgerald said the DPP claims the men cannot be returned from Syria to face trial, but told the court both were willing to return voluntarily.
The hearing continues.
Elsheikh’s confession mirrors that of ISIS cellmate and fellow Beatles member Kotey (left) who described himself as a ‘fighter’ who helped to ransom prisoners