Relatives of IS 'Beatles' victims relieved as trial nears

UK relatives of IS 'Beatles' victims welcome breakthrough as trial nears
2 min read
23 September, 2020
The relatives of two Britons killed by the Islamic State group welcomed a UK high court's decision permitting the UK to share evidence about two British suspects with the US.
Alexanda Kotey (L) and El Shafee Elsheikh (R) pictured after their 2018 capture [Twitter]

Relatives of two Britons killed by an Islamic State cell on Wednesday welcomed a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths.

The families of Alan Henning and David Haines said a ruling by the London High Court permitting the UK government to share evidence with US authorities about the suspects was a "huge result for us". 

"We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions," they said in a statement released by the charity Hostage International.

The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday's court ruling. 

The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq. 

Kotey and Elsheikh's four-member cell was dubbed "the Beatles" by their captives due to their English accents. They are accused of torturing and killing victims, including by beheading, and IS released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.

A two-year legal impasse concerning the suspects was broken last month when Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States. 

The United States wants to try them for the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during 2014-2015.

Taxi driver Henning and former aircraft engineer Haines, who had both gone to Syria to do aid work, were beheaded in 2014.

Another of the cell's alleged victims was British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing.

Cantlie's sister Jessica Pocock told of the relatives' intense frustration at the long legal wait.

"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," she told BBC radio.

"That was always terribly important to us to have a proper, fair trial. The families need nothing less than a fair trial," she said.

The US Department of Justice welcomed the court ruling and expressed gratitude to Britain for transferring the evidence, although a trial date has yet to be set.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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