Prosecutors have raised the prospect that two so-called Islamic State “Beatles” could face trial in Britain after announcing that they are reconsidering a decision over whether to bring charges against them here.
The CPS had concluded previously that it did not have sufficient evidence to charge Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, who are accused of being part of the notorious “Beatles” cell involved in numerous brutal murders in Syria.
But it is now reviewing that decision because of a “change in circumstances” following the men’s removal by US forces from a Kurdish detention camp.
The pair, who both travelled from west London to join IS, had been expected to eventually face trial in the US where they could face the death penalty if convicted.
Today, however, ahead of a High Court challenge by Elsheikh’s mother Maha Elgizouli — who is contesting the decision not to prosecute in the UK — the CPS said it was already reassessing its decision.
“Due to the change in circumstances the CPS are reviewing the evidence,” a spokesman said.
As well as the change in the men’s location, another factor which could increase the chances of them being charged here is possible evidence provided during media interviews.
During these they denied involvement in atrocities, but might have provided testimony to support other charges like support for and membership of IS. There are, however, still several obstacles to UK prosecution.
One is that evidence rules in British courts prevent the use of some intelligence material, while another is a potential US desire to see the men, suspected of involvement in the killing of several Americans, face justice there.
The punishment after conviction in America would be likely to be more severe than under British law.
The range of offences for which they could be prosecuted in the US is also likely to be more extensive — and less likely to allow them to escape with penalties that might be thought too lenient.
Another crucial factor could be a forthcoming UK Supreme Court ruling on another challenge by Ms Elgizoli.
She is seeking to overturn an earlier High Court judgment authorising the transfer of evidence about the men’s activities in Syria from this country to US lawyers. She says it could be used to impose a death penalty on her son.
Kotey and Elsheikh are accused of involvement in the killing of hostages including Britons David Haines and Alan Henning and three Americans.
Another “Beatle” is in jail in Turkey and the other, Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John”, was killed in a US drone strike.