Home secretary refuses to echo defence secretary, who ruled out bringing ISIS fighters back for trial.
Two British men alleged to have been part of an Islamic State murder squad could be returned to the UK to face trial after the home secretary, Amber Rudd, hinted at a softening of the government’s position.
The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, had ruled out bringing Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, suspected members of the group nicknamed “the Beatles” by Isis captives, back to the UK.
Asked about their fates last week, he said: “Do I want them back in the United Kingdom? No, I don’t.” Those comments came after talks with his US counterpart, Jim Mattis, with the issue threatening to cause a diplomatic rift. The US favours Isis fighters being tried in their countries of origin.
Williamson, however, appeared to stick to his guns, having previously told the Sun: “I don’t think they should ever set foot in this country again. They turned their back on Britain, our values and everything we stand for – they are the worst of the worst.”
Rudd refused to take as strong a line as her cabinet colleague when asked on Tuesday where the men should stand trial. “The important thing is that they have been arrested and the important thing is, to us, that they will face trial,” she said.
“I can’t be drawn at the moment on where that will be but I am absolutely convinced and absolutely committed to making sure that they will face trial because the security of the United Kingdom will always come first.”
A report in the Times suggested the two men had been stripped of their British citizenship and, while the Home Office has refused to officially confirm their statuses, a Whitehall source told the Press Association last week they were “not British subjects”.
Last week, a former national security adviser said the UK should put them on trial. Peter Ricketts told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I can absolutely understand that people don’t want these guys back, they sound despicable. On the other hand we do believe in the rule of law and in accountability.”
Along with two other British men, Mohammed Emwazi – nicknamed “Jihadi John” – and Aine Davis, the pair are alleged to have been part of a group responsible for murdering a number of hostages. Emwazi was killed in a US airstrike in 2015 and Davis was jailed in Turkey last year.