LONDON >> Britain’s Home Office has temporarily suspended cooperating with U.S. authorities on the handover of two British jihadis allegedly linked to the Islamic State group until a judge reviews a decision that would allow the pair to be tried in the United States.
Defense lawyers wrote the government this week after leaked documents showed that British officials were willing to hand over El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey without assurances the men would not be subject to the death penalty if they were convicted in an American court.
“We have agreed to a short-term pause,” the Home Office said in a statement today. “The government remains committed to bringing these people to justice, and we are confident we have acted in full accordance of the law.”
Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are suspected of being part of a notorious cell of British jihadis known for beheadings and barbaric treatment of hostages in Syria. The cell was nicknamed “The Beatles” because of their British accents. The British leader of the cell, Mohammed Emwazi, who was also known as “Jihadi John,” was killed in a 2015 drone strike.
In 2014 and 2015, the group held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them. It beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in grisly videos.
Britain’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Monday that it had seen a letter from Home Secretary Sajid Javid to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the two militants, who have been in custody in Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria since they were captured earlier this year.
The government pause came after lawyers for Elsheikh demanded a judicial review of the decision to allow the men to be put on trial in the U.S.
Attorneys Gareth Peirce and Anne McMurdie said they wrote the government to outline why the decision was unlawful and “setting out an urgent timetable” for the case to be heard in court.