Call to strip Islamic State ‘Beatle’ being sent back to Britain of citizenship

·8 min read
Islamic State 'Beatle' Aine Davis to be deported back to the UK - Enterprise News
Islamic State 'Beatle' Aine Davis to be deported back to the UK - Enterprise News

An alleged member of the Islamic State execution squad nicknamed “The Beatles” is being deported to the UK amid a growing row over why he has not been stripped of his British citizenship.

Aine Davis, from west London, could be free to walk Britain’s streets within days after serving a seven-year prison sentence in Turkey.

He faces being placed under strict terrorism prevention measures, such as curfews and wearing an electronic tag, as well as rules on who he can meet.

The 38-year-old has been accused of being part of the notorious terrorist cell – led by Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John” – that tortured and beheaded Western hostages in Syria.

Emwazi was killed in a drone strike and two other members of the group, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, were convicted in April of executing hostages, torture and kidnap.

Davis, who was given the nickname “Jihadi Paul”, has denied any involvement with the gang.

The Islamic State ‘Beatles’
The Islamic State ‘Beatles’

Amal el-Wahabi, his ex-wife, was convicted in 2014 of funding terrorism and sentenced to 28 months in prison for trying to send him €20,000 (£17,000) in cash after he had left the UK to join Islamic State.

An old school friend of Ms El-Wahabi, who had tried to smuggle the money in her knickers, was acquitted.

She told The Telegraph on Thursday night that she would not be welcoming Davis home, adding: “I want nothing to do with him. I’ve not spoken to him for years.

“This is the first I’ve heard of him coming back to Britain. I’ve completely distanced myself from him and I don’t want to see him.”

Davis was captured by Turkish security forces hiding out in a villa on the outskirts of Istanbul in 2015 and subsequently convicted of being a senior member of the terrorist group.

During his trial, he admitted to attending the same London mosque as Emwazi and of knowing him but denied encountering him in Syria.

The 38-year-old has now served his sentence and Turkish authorities are planning to deport him back to the UK in the coming days.

However, there are questions over why Davis has not been stripped of his British citizenship which would have blocked his deportation.

His father is from The Gambia and Davis was sent there by his family aged five to live with his grandmother because he “was driving his mother crazy”.

He spent much of his childhood in the west African country, returning to London for good at the age of 17.

Banjul, The Gambia - Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images
Banjul, The Gambia - Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images

On Thursday night, terrorism experts and politicians suggested that he should be denied entry to the UK and sent to The Gambia instead.

Lord Carlile of Berriew, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said: “Based on the information we have, I am surprised that this person is simply being allowed to return to the UK.

“I would hope the Home Office will provide a transparent explanation so that the public can understand why he is being treated in a different way to other overseas terrorists.

“It looks as though he may be entitled to citizenship of [The] Gambia where he spent much of his childhood and undoubtedly has family.”

‘Excellent case’ for stripping British citizenship

Dr Alan Mendoza, the executive director of The Henry Jackson Society think tank, said: “A dangerous jihadist is heading back to the UK after a career of extreme violence and we can do nothing about it except spend vast sums to monitor him.

“If Davis is entitled to Gambian citizenship, serious questions exist as to why he has not been stripped of his British citizenship.”

A leading member of the Common Sense group of 60 Tory MPs and peers said: “There is an excellent case for depriving all of those who hate Britain sufficiently to commit terrorist acts against our country of British citizenship. Certainly, a number of Parliamentarians will be urging the Home Secretary to do just that.”

Davis’s deportation threatens to provide a serious headache for security services and counter-terrorism police who will be tasked with monitoring him in Britain.

It is unclear if he will be arrested on arrival in the UK. Legal sources advising the Government said that the rule of double jeopardy applied and it would not be possible to prosecute Davis on his return for any offences similar to the one he was convicted for in Turkey.

A photograph of him – wearing combat fatigues and holding an assault rifle while pointing one finger to the sky, in a pose adopted by Islamic State fighters – might open him up to a fresh prosecution of preparing acts of terrorism.

Aine Davis - Enterprise News
Aine Davis - Enterprise News

The Telegraph has been told that if Davis is “deemed to pose a threat to national security”, he will be subjected to the full range of “investigative tools” needed to protect the public from him.

Sources have suggested claims that he was one of “The Beatles” are not accurate. At his trial in Turkey in 2017, Davis denied being a member of the execution squad.

Turkish officials said the country would not become a “dumping ground” for Western terrorists and that Davis would be deported to the UK “within days”, according to a report on the Middle East Eye news website. Security officials have not denied the claim.

Davis is currently being held in a prison in Ankara, but is scheduled to be deported on July 9. It is possible his release onto UK streets could be delayed for a short time for probation reports and even a health check.

At his trial, he dismissed photographs of him posing with armed militants as “stupid photos”.

His trial heard how he had been tracked to the house in Istanbul by Turkish police and intelligence officials after being smuggled out of Syria by Islamic State. Davis told the judge that reports he was a member of Jihadi John’s gang were false and that he was “innocent of the charges”.

Stripping ‘IS Beatle’s’ British citizenship will not be easy

What to do with returning jihadi fighters is a problem that won’t easily go away. With the collapse of the Islamic State, security services and counter-terrorism police have raised their concerns about battle-hardened Islamist fighters coming back to the UK.

Davis, having completed a prison sentence in Turkey for being a senior member of the terrorist group, epitomises those fears.

Ministers have tried to strip Britons of their citizenship to prevent their return. The latest official figures, published in March, show that in two years to Dec 31 2020, 37 people were deprived of their British citizenship on the basis that to do so was “conducive to the public good”.

The most prominent has been Shamima Begum, the one-time schoolgirl who fled to Syria to join Islamic State in 2015 at the age of just 15 along with two teenage friends, both of whom were later killed.

Begum was born in east London, the daughter of Bangladeshi-origin parents. While she languished in a refugee camp in Syria, Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary at the time, revoked Begum’s British citizenship, arguing she is eligible for Bangladeshi nationality.

The case caused an uproar and an inevitable legal battle that ended up in the Supreme Court.

Judges in the highest court effectively ruled against Begum, concluding she could not return to the UK to appeal the decision, leaving her in no man’s land, unable to get back to Britain to fight her case.

Davis has avoided that fate. It is unclear why he has been allowed to remain a UK citizen and the Home Office will never discuss, openly at least, specific cases outside of the court.

Greater case for revoking nationality

There is a greater claim for Davis to have his UK nationality revoked. He is a hardened fighter, linked even to Jihadi John’s execution squad, and has a terrorist conviction. But unlike Begum and others in camps, he has been in a Turkish jail and the government in Ankara wants rid.

Having spent much of his childhood in The Gambia, where his father was born, Davis has more roots in that country than Begum had in Bangladesh, where she had never lived. One issue may be a threat to Davis’s human rights if sent to The Gambia.

Despite reports linking Davis to the Islamic State execution squad, the US seems unlikely to want to prosecute Davis. That could have been a convenient option for the UK in taking him off our hands.

Two surviving members of “The Beatles” gang – Elsheikh and Kotey – were stripped of their UK citizenship and sent to the US to face justice, both men now convicted of beheadings and torture.

The Home Office agreed to hand over a wealth of intelligence on the pair to secure prosecution. In return, the Department of Justice agreed to drop the death penalty in the case.

US prosecutors instructed that there were only considered to be three members of the hostage-taking scheme, despite reports of Davis’s involvement in the cell’s later activity.

That leaves Davis free to return to Britain. He will likely be placed under a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure, put under curfew and tagged. But he will be free to walk the streets. Ministers will hold their breath.

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