Mother of Isil 'Beatle' makes second legal bid to force trial in UK

Alexanda Kotey (l) and El Shafee Elsheikh (r) speak to media at a security centre in Syria
Alexanda Kotey (l) and El Shafee Elsheikh (r) speak to media at a security centre in Syria Credit: AP

The mother of one of the Islamic State “Beatles terrorists” will this month launch a new high court action in a bid to force the Government to try him in the UK.

Maha Elgizouli is taking action against the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as her lawyers claim there is sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute her son, El Shafee Elsheikh, 30, in Britain rather than allow him to be taken to the US where he would face the death sentence.

Elsheikh, and Alexanda Kotey, 35, were both members of the Beatles gang accused of beheading seven Westerners and this week were transferred into American military custody in Iraq from Kurdish detention in northeastern Syria in advance of a potential move to Virginia for a US trial.

His mother claims the CPS has failed in its duty to adequately assess the evidence against her son and on October 22 will seek a judicial review of its actions.

Elsheikh's mother is seeking to block her son from being tried in the US where he could face the death penalty Credit: PA

It is her second legal move after she appealed to the Supreme Court to prevent the transfer of evidence by the Home Secretary to the US without the UK seeking assurances that the pair will not face the death penalty. The Supreme Court judgement is imminent.

In the Supreme Court hearing, it was told the CPS did have sufficient evidence to prosecute the pair contrary to previous Government claims.

This included “very substantial evidence” to charge Kotey with five murders and eight counts of hostage-taking and Elsheikh with membership of a banned terrorist organisation.

This contrasted with a statement to MPs by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in July 2018 when he was security minister that the UK did not have evidence to try either of the men in the UK - and a US trial was the only solution.

“Ms Elgizouli believes her son should face justice in the UK, but not the prospect of a death sentence in the US,” said a source.

The Home Office has said its goal is for the pair to “face justice in the most appropriate jurisdiction, which maximises the chance of a successful prosecution” and said the UK would work “extremely closely with the US Government and others to achieve this aim.”

Having stripped the pair of their British citizenship as a threat to national security, it is resisting a British trial but any US prosecution would be hampered if the courts in the UK ruled against the Government.

This weekend Jonathan Hall, QC,  the Government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said the Government should “where possible” be willing to prosecute British jihadis from Syria in the UK as part of its international responsibility to counter terrorism.

The security services say at least 900 Britons have left the UK to fight with Isil in Syria and Iraq in the past seven years. About half are thought to have returned to the UK and at least 10 to 20 per cent were killed.

It is estimated there are a total of up to 1,500 Isil members in “prisons” in northeastern Syria, most of whom are European and American. 

“The UK is a sophisticated legal system. The CPS has got an incredibly successful track record in prosecuting terrorism. In principle, it is right that the UK should shoulder the burden of prosecuting some of these individuals and holding them to account,” said Mr Hall.