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UK Report: UK to Hand Over Jihadists to US Without Death Penalty Assurances

 Britain's Home Secretary Sajid Javid arrives in Downing Street in London, May 1, 2018.
Britain's Home Secretary Sajid Javid arrives in Downing Street in London, May 1, 2018.

A report in a British newspaper says the British government has "secretly abandoned its blanket opposition to the death penalty and Guantanamo Bay" so that two jihadists -- members of the so-called Beatles group of Islamic State terrorists -- can face criminal prosecution in the United States.

In a report posted on The Telegraph's website late Sunday, the paper said it had seen documents that the government is willing to hand over Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El-Sheikh to the U.S. without any "assurances" that they will not be executed.

British law does not allow for the death penalty.

The paper said it had seen documents detailing the conditions of the plan, including a letter from British Home Secretary Sajid Javid to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that said Britain was not asking for "assurances" that the two men would not be executed.

The report said the Home Secretary was concerned that British law "may not be robust enough to ensure a successful prosecution."

According to The Telegraph, in the letter dated June 22, 2018, Javid wrote, ". . . it is the long held position of the UK to seek death penalty assurances, and our decision in this case does not reflect a change in our policy on assistance in US death penalty cases generally, nor the UK Government's stance on the global abolition of the death penalty."

The paper said, however, that a senior Home Office source had "insisted" Saturday night that the U.S. had been "verbally warned" against sending the men to Guantanamo Bay.

The anonymous source said that the U.K. "made it clear" that the British government would hand over the men "for the purposes of a criminal trial," but not for detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Kotey and El-Sheikh were captured in Syria in January. The Telegraph says they are being held in Syria by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Both held British citizenship. The Telegraph says, however, "... it has been widely reported that this has been secretly revoked by ministers."

Kotey and El-Sheikh were part of a four-member terrorist cell dubbed "The Beatles" because all four had British accents. A third member of the group, nicknamed "Jihadi John," was killed by a drone strike in Syria in 2015. The fourth member, Aine Lesley Davis, is being held in a Turkish prison.

The cell was responsible for the beheadings of U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, U.S. humanitarian worker Peter Kassig, and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.

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