In Brief

Isis Beatles: UK ‘drops opposition to death penalty’ for the jihadists

Home Secretary will seek ‘no assurances’ that two British fighters are not executed under US law

The UK government appears to have abandoned its blanket opposition to the death penalty, stating in a leaked letter that Britain will not block American attempts to extradite two British Isis fighters and prosecute them under US law.

The Times reports that UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid had originally “threatened to withhold any evidence it held” about Isis fighters Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh unless the US “provided assurances that they would not be put to death”.

However, in a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions dated 22 June 2018 and seen by The Daily Telegraph, Javid said that the UK will no longer demand “assurances” that the pair will not be executed in the US.

The pair - part of a terror cell nicknamed “The Beatles” - have British citizenship and are currently being held by US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought,” says Javid’s letter to Sessions.

“As you are aware, it is the long held position of the UK to seek death penalty assurances, and our decision in this case does not reflect a change in our policy on assistance in US death penalty cases generally, nor the UK Government’s stance on the global abolition of the death penalty,” Javid adds.

Other leaked documents obtained by the Telegraph indicate that the UK government will also not formally oppose the possible detention of the pair at Guantanamo Bay,”  also known as GTMO, without trial.

“Although HMG ‘Her Majesty’s Government’ will not lobby the US to not send them to GTMO, we will maintain our long-standing position that GTMO should close, says a note headed “official sensitive”. 

“GTMO is seen by many as acting as a recruiting sergeant for extremists’ intent on undermining Western values,” the note continues.

Javid will stand before Parliament to justify his decision today, the Daily Mail reports.

The so-called Isis Beatles were one of Isis’s “most notorious terror cells”, says the newspaper, and got that nickname because its four members had British accents.

The group was originally led by Mohammed Emwazi - known by UK media as Jihadi John - and is believed to be responsible for the beheadings of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and US humanitarian worker Peter Kassig.

Emwazi was killed by a targeted US-UK drone strike in Raqqa in 2015. The fourth member of the cell, Londoner Aine Davis, was jailed in Turkey last year.

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