UK: The British home secretary, Sajid Javid, has decided to cooperate with US authorities in the prosecution of two alleged Islamic State fighters, without assurances they would not face the death penalty, in order to avoid “political outrage” in the Trump administration, reported the Guardian on Monday.
The Guardian further reports:
The allegation came as the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, and Mr Justice Garnham heard an application on behalf of the mother of El Shafee Elsheikh over the legality of the Home Office’s agreement to provide evidence to US prosecutors.
Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who were raised in Britain, are alleged to have been part of an Isis terrorism cell, some of whom were known as “the Beatles”, that is thought to have carried out 27 beheadings of US and UK citizens in Isis-held territory. Those killed included the British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines and the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
The pair, who have been stripped of their British citizenship, were captured in February by Syrian Kurdish fighters, prompting behind-the-scenes negotiations between the UK and the US governments over where they should be prosecuted.
The decision not to seek assurances from the US that the two men would not face the death penalty was in defiance of advice from the Foreign Office and senior civil servants, said Edward Fitzgerald QC, who represents Maha El Gizouli, Elsheikh’s mother.
It also broke with the policy of two previous home secretaries, Theresa May and Amber Rudd, who had sought such assurances in the cases of both suspects, the court was told. In April, however, the security minister, Ben Wallace, first broke ranks and indicated he opposed seeking assurances.
Javid’s determination in May to abandon seeking such assurances over the death penalty was “in large part because of anticipated outrage among political appointments in the Trump administration”, Fitzgerald said. Boris Johnson, the then foreign secretary, eventually agreed with him.
Elsheikh was captured in January. Metropolitan police documents written shortly afterwards suggest he and Kotey were being held by US forces in Iraq, the court was told.
The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had initially pressed for Elsheikh and Kotey to be prosecuted in the UK, acknowledging that 600 statements taken by the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism command would be needed to convict them.