ISIS 'Beatles' Escape US Death Penalty

William Barr assures UK they will not be executed if convicted in US
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2020 12:57 AM CDT
ISIS 'Beatles' Escape US Death Penalty
In this March 30, 2019, file photo, Alexanda Amon Kotey, left, and El Shafee Elsheikh, who were allegedly among four British jihadis who made up a brutal Islamic State cell dubbed "The Beatles," speak during an interview with The Associated Press at a security center in Kobani, Syria.   (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Two members of the Islamic State four-member cell dubbed the "Beatles" because of their British accents will not face the death penalty in the US. Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were captured in Syria in 2018 and ultimately transferred to Iraq, where they are currently in US military custody, per the Washington Post and the BBC. Their case has been tied up due to a lawsuit filed Britain; the US wants the UK's help in prosecuting the men, but Elsheikh's mother sued to bar the sharing of any evidence in a capital case. Now, William Barr has informed British Home Secretary Priti Patel in a letter that the US has dropped its previous insistence on the death penalty. The other two members of the "Beatles" quartet, known for a number of gruesome beheadings including that of American journalist James Foley, are either dead (Mohammed Emwazi aka "Jihadi John") or already convicted and imprisoned (Aine Davis, who is in Turkey).

Barr's letter says that if the UK cooperates with a US prosecution, including sharing evidence and allowing the pair to be extradited, they will not be executed if convicted, Reuters reports. It says that if the evidence is not provided by Oct. 15, the men will be transferred to Iraqi custody, and human rights activists say prosecution in Iraq would be an almost guaranteed death sentence. The British Home Office says it will "continue to work closely with international partners to ensure that those who have committed crimes in the name of Daesh are brought to justice," but also that "legal proceedings are ongoing before the Supreme Court and we are prevented by a court order from transferring the evidence to the US at this time." It is not clear when the UK's high court will issue a final ruling, which could open the door to evidence-sharing. The two men were stripped of their British citizenship upon their capture. (More ISIS stories.)

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