UK high court rules alleged IS members can be tried in US

UK high court rules alleged IS members can be tried in US
A British court has dismissed a challenge by the mother of an alleged IS member, paving the way for a pair of so-called 'Beatles' militants to be tried in US
2 min read
22 September, 2020
Alexanda Kotey (L) and El Shafee Elsheikh (R) pictured after their 2018 capture [Twitter]

A UK high court judge ruled on Tuesday that the trial of two alleged Islamic State group members accused of carrying out horrific beheadings can take place in the US, dismissing an appeal lodged by the mother of one of the defendants.

Following the ruling, key evidence for the prosecution was handed over to Washington.

The defendants El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are being held in US custody in Iraq, after they were captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces in January 2018.

They were both raised in the UK, but have since been stripped of their citizenship.

Elsheikh's mother, Maha Elgizouli, requested a judicial review into UK home secretary Priti Patel's decision in August to satisfy a US mutual legal assistance (MLA) request for the evidence material.

Elgizouli had argued such a transfer was unlawful because it violated the Data Protection Act.

However, the judges ruled that the home secretary was within her rights.

"The conclusion that, even if Mr Elsheikh could be prosecuted in England, it would still be necessary and proportionate to transfer the data to the US authorities remained a conclusion properly open to the secretary of state," the ruling said.

Tweeting after the decision was made public, Patel said the evidence against the pair "has now finally been transferred to the US".

"I sincerely hope that justice for the victims and their families will now be served," she said.

The move comes after a two-year legal impasse concerning the pair was broken last month, when US Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States.

However, Barr warned that unless the British evidence was shared by 15 October, Kotey and Elsheikh would be handed over for prosecution and possible execution in Iraq.

Barr's intervention put the onus on Patel to see if the British system could overcome the court challenge by Elsheikh's mother and share the evidence - said to be damning wiretaps - with US authorities.

The US intends to try the two for the murder of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during a period spanning 2014-2015.

Kotey and Elsheikh's four-member cell was dubbed "The Beatles" by their captives due to their British accents. Their brutal acts, including beheadings, were publicised by IS propaganda videos.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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