Sajid Javid faces legal action over death penalty for British Isis fighters

Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid

A charity has said it is considering legal action against Sajid Javid over the decision not to stop two Isis fighters being given the death penalty in the US.

The Home Secretary has been accused of breaking the UK’s decades-old opposition to the death penalty over the cases of Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh – two suspected members of the Isis ‘Beatles’ cell.

Theresa May confirmed she backed the decision with a spokesperson saying she “supports” the Home Secretary’s handling of the case and hopes it will end with the two men remaining in prison for the rest of their lives.

On Tuesday, The Howard League – a penal reform charity – announced it was looking into taking unprecedented legal action against Mr Javid.

It said in a statement on Twitter: “The Howard League was founded when public executions ended and has more than 150 years’ experience of campaigning against capital punishment.

“The Howard League was founded when public executions ended and has more than 150 years’ experience of campaigning against capital punishment.

“We have been advised that legal action is feasible. We are consulting with senior legal figures on the precise details and we will make an announcement shortly.

Alexanda Kotey and Shafee Elsheikh.
Alexanda Kotey and Shafee Elsheikh.

Kotey and Elsheikh are said to have been members of a brutal four-man cell of IS executioners in Syria and Iraq, responsible for killing a series of high-profile Western captives, including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Nicknamed after the 1960s band because of their British accents, the cell is also believed to have included Mohammed Emwazi – known as “Jihadi John” – who was killed in a US air strike in 2015, and Aine Davis, who has been jailed in Turkey.

Kotey and Elsheikh, who are understood to have been stripped of their British citizenship, were captured in January, sparking a row over whether they should be returned to the UK for trial or face justice in another jurisdiction.

The letter sparked alarm in Westminster, with shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti saying that Mr Javid appeared to have “secretly and unilaterally abandoned Britain’s opposition to the death penalty”.

She warned: “By doing so he is not just playing with the lives of these particular terrorists but those of other Britons – including potentially innocent ones – all over the world.”

Lord Carlile described the move as “a dramatic change of policy by a minister, secretly, without any discussion in Parliament”.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey said: “By refusing to stand up to Donald Trump’s administration on this issue, Sajid Javid has abdicated his responsibility to uphold fundamental human rights.”

David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Opposing the death penalty is one of the fundamental principles that underpins our country’s commitment to human rights. There is no conflict between these values and ensuring that justice is served.”

Mr Wallace assured the Commons that ministers have complied with the European Convention on Human Rights and due process.

But he was heckled by opposition MPs as he said it would be “bizarre and not justice to the victims” if the authorities “simply let them free to roam around the United Kingdom” because of concerns about sharing evidence with the US.

Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve said the decision represented a “major departure from normal policy”, adding: “Those are the key questions and until they’re answered I have to say to him this issue is going to continue to haunt the Government.”