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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 19 August 2018

ISIS Beatles: UK ‘suspends co-operation’ with US amid death penalty outrage

UK Home Office confirms that it has agreed to a short-term pause in the Mutual Legal Assistance response

Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El SheikhThe pair, who have reportedly had their British citizenship revoked, are being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces. Reuters
Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El SheikhThe pair, who have reportedly had their British citizenship revoked, are being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces. Reuters

The UK’s Home Office has confirmed that it has temporarily suspended its co-operation with US authorities in the case of two former British citizens alleged to be ISIS fighters over the possibility that they might face the death penalty.

“Yesterday we received a request from the legal representative of the family of one of the suspects to pause the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) response,” statement released on Thursday evening read. “We have agreed to a short-term pause. The government remains committed to bringing these people to justice and we are confident we have acted in full accordance of the law and within the government’s longstanding MLA policy.”

Earlier this week it was revealed that home secretary Sajid Javid had written to the US agreeing share information on “Beatles” pair El Shafee El Sheikh and Alexanda Kotey without seeking assurances that the two would not be executed, contrary to a long-standing British policy not to co-operate with death penalty cases.

The decision, which came to the light after leaked documents were seen by the Daily Telegraph, has sparked outrage from cross-party parliamentarians.

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Read more:

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Britain 'drops' death penalty opposition for ISIS ‘Beatles’

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On Thursday, the Guardian reported that the government had opted to suspend its intelligence-sharing plans for the time being following an emergency legal challenge, launched by El Sheikh’s mother.

Writing in the publication UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson said: “At about midday today, the government beat a tactical retreat – and caved in under the legal and political pressure.”

Nicknamed the Beatles because of their British accents, El Sheikh and Kotey are accused members of the notorious group of ISIS assassins who have been blamed for the beheadings of five westerners and the torture of others held in Syria in 2014 and 2015.

The pair, who have reportedly had their British citizenship revoked, are being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, having been captured attempting to flee the war-torn country in January 2018.

Lawyers Gareth Peirce and Anne McMurdie representing El Sheikh’s mother said a letter had been sent to Mr Javid on Tuesday asking for immediate assurance that such cooperation should stop, threatening an injunction to prevent any further assistance being provided.

While Mr Javid “gave an undertaking that no further provision of assistance would take place”, the lawyers said this was only a “short term promise”.

Ms Peirce and Ms McMurdie said the minister’s decision was unlawful and they had made an application for the case to be heard before a court.

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