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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

ISIS Britons could return home without facing charges

Security minister Ben Wallace told a summit “we will either seek to convict them or try to deradicalise them”

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were stripped of their British citizenship. Reuters
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were stripped of their British citizenship. Reuters

Britons who moved to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS could be allowed back into the country, UK security minister Ben Wallace has said, even if they cannot be brought to justice for their actions.

Ben Wallace said that his “number-one preference” would be to see such fighters taken to court in the UK, and he said the British government would happily accept any who were sent back by foreign governments or who chose to returned voluntarily.

He told the National Security Summit in London: “British citizens are British citizens. If they seek to come back to this country or another country deports them, we will take them and we will either seek to convict them or we will try to deradicalise them.”

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But there were “clear legal challenges” in trying to bring back Britons who were currently being held by Kurdish forces in Syria - and in putting together watertight legal cases against them in a British court. There are currently nine British fighters with ISIS who are being held by Kurdish forces.

Britain was accused earlier this week of abandoning its long-standing opposition to the death penalty for ISIS terror suspects in the United States, as European capitals sought to avoid the repatriation of foreign fighters from Syria.

British officials shifted the country’s stand over three months in 2018, after their ambassador in Washington stirred fears of outraging president Donald Trump, London’s High Court was told. Mr Trump could “hold a grudge” if Britain refused to allow its intelligence to be used for death penalty cases in the US, according to the diplomat.

The apparent change in policy came as Britain prepared the ground for members of an ISIS hit squad – suspected of kidnapping 27 people and beheading five westerners in Syria and Iraq – to be tried in the US.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh – two members of the squad dubbed “the Beatles” because of their English accents – were captured in Syria in January.