The British government is threatening to withhold key evidence from U.S. prosecutors unless the Trump administration assures that it will not seek the death penalty against two British Islamic State suspects recently captured in Syria, The New York Times reports.
The Times cites “officials familiar with the deliberations,” who also said that the British wanted the U.S. to prosecute the suspects in civilian court, rather than taking them to Guantánamo Bay.
The men, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, are suspected of being part of a cell of four British jihadists known as “The Beatles,” who have allegedly tortured and killing several Americans and other Western hostages.
They were recently captured Syria by a Kurdish militia, which is holding them.
The men have been stripped of their British citizenship, so the United States is expected to eventually take custody of them, the Times reports.
But the Trump administration is determining how to handle them, the officials said, though they have been interrogated by U.S. officials “for intelligence purposes.”
However, Kotey and Elsheikh had not been read their Miranda warnings and have not been re-interviewed in trying to obtain confessions or other information that could be used in a courtroom.
The British also holds other information on the suspects — including their backgrounds, associations, radicalization, movements and activities that could strengthen the U.S. case.
A British Embassy official in Washington declined to specifically speak about the suspects or whether any restrictions were being sought but told the Times that London was working closely with the United States on the matter.
“Where there is evidence that crimes have been committed, foreign fighters should be brought to justice in accordance with due legal process, regardless of their nationality,” the official said.
“We continue to work extremely closely with the U.S. government on this issue, sharing our views, as we do on a range of national security issues and in the context of our joint determination to tackle international terrorism and combat violent extremism.”
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
Britain abolished the death penalty in 1965 and objects to the U.S. holding suspects indefinitely at Guantánamo, the Times reports.
But President Trump issued an executive order keeping Guantánamo open, though on new detainees have been sent there.
Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, has been pushing the White House to take Kotey and Elsheikh to Guantánamo, according to the report.