LONDON—The mother of one of the British Islamic State militants suspected of murdering western hostages, lost a legal challenge Jan. 18 that it was wrong for Britain to assist a U.S. investigation which could lead to them facing the death penalty.
Britons El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey—two of a notorious group of British fighters nicknamed “The Beatles”—are being held by Kurdish militia after being captured in Syria last year.
The United States wants to extradite them and Britain has said it will not stand in the way of any future U.S. prosecution that would seek the death penalty, waiving a long-standing objection to executions.
Elsheikh’s mother, Maha El Gizouli, had sought a judicial review, saying it was unlawful for Britain’s interior minister to provide mutual legal assistance in a case which could lead to prosecutions for offenses which carried the death penalty.
Her lawyers said the minister’s actions were flawed, inconsistent with Britain’s unequivocal opposition to the death penalty, and violated her son’s human rights. However, London’s High Court disagreed and dismissed her claim.
“My priority has always been to ensure we deliver justice for the victims’ families and that the individuals suspected of these sickening crimes face prosecution as quickly as possible,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid said.
“Any evidence shared with the United States in this case must be for the express purpose of progressing a federal prosecution.”
British prosecutors concluded they did not have the evidence to launch their own case against the men but U.S. officials then expressed frustration with the British stance of seeking an assurance that U.S. prosecutors would not call for the death penalty, court documents showed.
However, last June, British ministers and senior officials decided the best way of ensuring a prosecution and to protect U.S. relations was to seek no such assurance in this case.
By Michael Holden