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Prosecutors reconsider prosecuting members of Isil 'Beatles' gang in the UK

Charles Hymas
TELEMMGLPICT000212583285.jpeg - AP

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is to reconsider its opposition to putting on trial in the UK a pair of British Islamic State terrorists who were members of so-called “Beatles” cell.

In a statement, the CPS said it would review the evidence against them after the United States took custody of the two men, Alexanda Kotey, 35, and El Shafee Elsheikh, 30, who are suspected of involvement in killing British and American hostages in Syria.

“Due to the change in circumstances the CPS are reviewing the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors,” a spokesman said.

Britain previously backed a US prosecution of the pair and passed evidence to American investigators on the grounds that prosecutors here were unlikely to secure a conviction.

It subsequently emerged, however, in a supreme court hearing by the mother of Elsheikh that the CPS had “very substantial evidence” to charge Kotey with five murders and eight counts of hostage-taking and Elsheikh with membership of a banned terrorist organisation.

Elsheikh’s mother, Maha Elgizouli, is currently engaged in a high court action to try to force the Government to put her son on trial in the UK.

She claims the CPS has failed in its duty to adequately assess the evidence against her son and is seeking a judicial review of its actions.

It is her second legal move after she appealed to the Supreme Court to prevent the transfer of evidence by the Home Secretary to the US without the UK seeking assurances that the pair will not face the death penalty. The Supreme Court judgement is imminent.

The Home Office has said its goal is for the pair to “face justice in the most appropriate jurisdiction, which maximises the chance of a successful prosecution” and said the UK would work “extremely closely with the US Government and others to achieve this aim.”

Earlier this month Dominic Raab hinted that the UK may be forced to bring British jihadists home to face trial after the Turkish invasion of northern Syria threatened to allow thousands to escape detention.

The foreign secretary said that the policy against repatriating Islamic State fighters to face trial was “under review” because of the chaos unleashed by the Turkish assault.

The US is thought to prefer a British trial of the pair. Marc Raimondi, a US Justice Department spokesman, told The Daily Telegraph: “While I would not comment on any specific case, our position has long been to encourage nations to responsibly repatriate and where possible prosecute their citizens who have travelled abroad to join foreign terrorist organizations.” 

Prosecutors in Virginia in the US have expressed confidence that they can prosecute the two men for a conspiracy to take hostages that resulted in death, but they planned to rely on evidence from the British. 

That evidence includes voice analysis believed to tie the two to the Beatles and details about how they got to Syria. The potential charge carries a death sentence.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in the coming weeks on the legality of sharing evidence gathered by British investigators with American prosecutors.