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.
Elsheikh and Kotey also have admitted their involvement in holding American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was sexually abused and killed after she was held hostage for three years.
Both 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.
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.
Both also had admitted being involved in holding American US aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was held hostage from 2015 to 2018, sexually abused and killed.
Kotey and Elsheikh had previously denied ever meeting the Mueller, but changed their story in interview tapes obtained by NBC News.
ISIS reportedly demanded 5 million euros from Mueller’s family, telling them that that they would send ‘a picture of Kayla’s dead body’ if their demands were not met
Kayla Mueller was held hostage in Syria , where she was sexually abused and tortured before her death in 2015
‘She was in a large room, it was dark, and she was alone, and…she was very scared,’ said Elsheikh, a member of the cruel execution squad dubbed the ‘Beatles’ because of their British accents.
‘I took an email from her myself,’ he admitted, meaning he got an email address ISIS could use to demand ransom from the family. Said Kotey: ‘She was in a room by herself that no one would go in.’
ISIS reportedly demanded 5 million euros from Mueller’s family, telling them that that they would send ‘a picture of Kayla’s dead body’ if their demands were not met.
Mueller, an international aid worker, was abducted in Syria in 2013. During her captivity, she was raped by the former ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, US officials have said.
Baghdadi killed himself with a suicide vest as American commandos closed in on him in a daring raid.
The family members of Kotey and Elsheikh’s victims, including Mueller’s parents Marsha and Carl, published an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for the duo to be brought to trial in America.
‘We implore President Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr and the Justice Department to have the detainees brought to the United States to face trial,’ the families wrote.’There is no nation on Earth better at bringing terrorists to justice than the United States,’ they added.
The families say that US federal court is the best venue to expose to the world the vile crimes committed by the duo.
‘They did so much horror to so many people,’ Marsha Mueller told NBC News. ‘They need to be brought here. They need to be prosecuted.’
‘The other thing that’s really important to me about this is I need information about Kayla. We know so little about what happened to her,’ she said.
She added, ‘I believe these two have more information than they’re sharing with us. And I believe that we would find out more if they were brought here.’
ISIS said that Mueller was killed near Raqa in February 2015 during an air raid carried out by the US-led international coalition against the jihadists, although the exact circumstances of her death remain unclear.
Her body was never found, leaving a sliver of hope for her parents that she might still be alive.
Kotey and Elsheikh, both from London, were captured in January 2018 by Syrian Kurdish forces. They are implicated in the murder of ISIS 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 ISIS 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.’