Islamic State '˜Beatles' could face death penalty after UK drops its opposition

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has been accused of abandoning Britain's long-held opposition to the death penalty in negotiations with the US about two terror suspects.

Alexanda Kotey, left, and El Shafee Elsheikh are alleged to have been members of the group calling itself Islamic State. Picture: AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Mr Javid has told US Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the UK will not demand a “death penalty assurance” as part of the extradition of Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh.

The two men are alleged to have been members of the group calling itself Islamic State, making up a four-man cell which was responsible for killing a series of high-profile Western captives.

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The pair, who are understood to have been stripped of their British citizenship, were captured in January, leading to a row over whether they should be returned to the UK for trial or face justice in another jurisdiction.In a leaked letter, Mr Javid said the UK “does not currently intend to request, nor actively encourage”, the transfer of Kotey and Elsheikh to Britain.

He said: “All assistance and material will be provided on the condition that it may only be used for the purpose sought in that request, namely a federal criminal investigation or prosecution.

“Furthermore, 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.”

Amnesty International accused the UK government of abandoning its blanket opposition to the death penalty, describing Mr Javid’s letter as “a huge backward step”.

It said Mr Javid was “leaving the door wide open to charges of hypocrisy and double standards” by failing to seek “cast-iron assurances” that the men will not be executed.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey said: “The use of the death penalty – no matter the crimes involved – is wrong. By refusing to stand up to Donald Trump’s administration on this issue, Sajid Javid has abdicated his responsibility to uphold fundamental human rights.”

Along with Mohammed Emwazi – the killer nicknamed Jihadi John – and Aine Davis, Kotey and Elsheikh are thought to have been part of a group named “The Beatles” because of their English accents.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said Theresa May supported the Home Secretary’s handling of the case and hoped it would end with the two men remaning in prison for the rest of their lives.

She said:“The Prime Minister was aware of these plans and supports the way that these are being handled.”