LONDON (AP) — British authorities can share information with U.S. prosecutors about two members of a suspected Islamic State militant cell in Syria known as “The Beatles,” after a U.K. Supreme Court ruling that may lead to the men being tried in America.
The decision released Wednesday comes a week after U.S. Attorney General William Barr informed British authorities that his prosecutors wouldn’t seek the death penalty for El Shafee ElSheikh and Alexanda Kotey. Both men grew up in Britain but had their citizenship removed after they traveled abroad to fight with the IS group.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday lifted a stay that barred the Home Office, the government department in charge of law enforcement, from sharing information about the men with U.S. prosecutors.
The court ordered that “the application of the appellant for a continuation of the stay … be refused, and the stay be lifted.’’
The court had issued the stay after ElSheikh’s mother challenged the government’s decision to share the information. She argued that doing so was illegal because the evidence could be used to seek the death penalty, in violation of British and European law.
While the court agreed that data protection laws barred the government from helping a foreign government pursue the death penalty, the U.S. has now taken capital punishment off the table.
Both British and U.S. authorities allege ElSheikh and Kotey were part of a kidnapping and torture squad responsible for the murder of several Western hostages in Syria. The group became known as The Beatles because all four of its members spoke with British accents.
ElSheikh and Kotey were captured by Syrian rebel forces in January 2018 and later turned over to U.S. authorities. They are being held by the military overseas. The U.S. initially asked Britain to prosecute them but decided to pursue the case itself after U.K. authorities declined.
The Home Office declined to comment on Wednesday’s ruling. However, Home Secretary Priti Patel has made it clear in the past that she supports cooperating with the U.S. to prosecute terrorists.
Patel and Barr last year signed an agreement making it easier for authorities investigating serious crimes in the U.S. and Britain to seek electronic data directly from tech companies.
“This is just one example of the enduring security partnership we have with the U.S., and I look forward to continuing to work with them and global partners to tackle these heinous crimes,” she said at the time.