IS victims’ families praise ‘huge result’ as court ruling paves way for US trial

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Families of men allegedly killed by two British suspected IS terrorists have welcomed the news they are now likely to go on trial in the US.

No date has yet been set for when Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, both in their 30s and from west London, will appear in court over the brutal killings of British and US citizens, which were among many filmed and beamed around the world in gruesome detail by so-called Islamic State.

Elsheikh and Kotey are accused of belonging to a cell of executioners in Syria known as The Beatles because of their British accents, and are said to be responsible for killing a number of Western captives including Britons Alan Henning and David Haines.

The victims’ families, in a statement from charity Hostage International, described a High Court ruling allowing the UK to share case information with US authorities as a “huge result for us”.

The statement was also issued on behalf of the family of British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing – although reports emerged last year that suggested the UK Government has evidence he is still alive.

Jessica Pocock, Mr Cantlie’s sister, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme her family “only ever wanted these two (Kotey and Elsheikh) to face justice”.

She said: “We feel we all have to stand accountable for our actions.

“At times we felt absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice – wherever they may be.

“That was always terribly important to us to have a proper fair trial.

“The families need nothing less than a fair trial.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that “further evidence to support the prosecution” of the two men was “finally” sent to America following Tuesday’s court decision.

David Haines memorial
The order of service at Perth Congregational Church following a memorial service for David Haines, who was beheaded by terrorists (Danny Lawson/PA)

Cab driver-turned-aid worker Mr Henning, 47, from Lancashire, was also beheaded in 2014 after being captured by extremists in Syria.

Their brutal deaths, and several others, were filmed and used for propaganda by extremists.

The cell’s ringleader was said to have been Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, who was killed in a US air strike in 2015.

The group’s fourth member, Aine Davis, was later jailed in Turkey.

The prospect of a criminal trial increased after Elsheikh’s mother, Maha Elgizouli, this week lost a judicial review as she sought to prevent evidence against her son and his co-accused being sent to the US.

Ms Elgizouli’s lawyers had unsuccessfully argued Ms Patel’s earlier decision was unlawful as it was incompatible with the Data Protection Act, and asked the court to order that no material should be provided to the US.

They said the transfer of the evidence was “not strictly necessary” as it was made at a time when the Director of Public Prosecutions was due to make a decision “imminently” about whether there was enough evidence to prosecute Elsheikh in the UK – which US authorities previously indicated a preference for.

But Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Garnham rejected the case, saying it was “not properly arguable”.

Kotey and Elsheikh were captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces in January 2018.

They were transferred to the custody of the US military in Iraq in October 2019 and remain in American custody.

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