LONDON: A British man accused of being part of a Daesh kidnap-and-murder cell known as the “Beatles” was remanded in custody Thursday on terrorism charges after Turkey deported him to the UK.
Aine Davis, 38, was an alleged member of the Daesh cell that held dozens of foreign hostages in Syria between 2012 and 2015 and was known to their captives as the “Beatles” because of their British accents.
Two of the four have already been brought to justice in the United States for the gruesome beheadings and killings of several American captives, while another of the quartet died in Syria.
British police arrested Davis after he was deported by Turkish authorities and landed at Luton airport near London late Wednesday.
He faces three counts under UK terrorism laws, two related to terrorism fundraising in 2014 and one related to possessing a firearm.
Appearing at a London magistrates’ court flanked by two suited police officers Thursday morning, Davis — sporting a short beard and grey T-shirt — spoke only to confirm his name and that he was of no fixed abode.
His lawyer confirmed he would not be entering a plea or seeking bail at this stage.
Chief magistrate Paul Goldspring said bail would in any case be refused partly due to Davis’ “propensity to travel on forged documents” and ordered him held in prison.
He referred the case to the crown court, which deals with serious criminal offenses, with a pre-trial hearing set for September 2 at the central criminal court, known as the Old Bailey.
Goldspring noted that if convicted, Davis will face “years, not months” in jail.
The four members of the “Beatles” are accused of abducting at least 27 journalists and relief workers from the United States, Britain, Europe, New Zealand, Russia and Japan.
They were allegedly involved in the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.
The accused cell members, who all grew up in west London, allegedly tortured and killed the four American victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the murders for propaganda purposes.
Alexanda Kotey, a 38-year-old former British national extradited from the UK to the US in 2020 to face charges there, pleaded guilty to his role in the deaths last September and was sentenced to life in prison in April.
El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, another former British national also extradited to the US at the same time, was found guilty of all charges in April, and will be sentenced next week.
They were captured in January 2018 by a Kurdish militia in Syria and turned over to US forces in Iraq before being sent to Britain and then the US.
There they faced federal court charges of hostage-taking, conspiracy to murder US citizens and supporting a foreign terrorist organization.
The other “Beatles” executioner, Mohamed Emwazi, was killed by a US drone in Syria in 2015.
Davis was arrested in Istanbul in 2015 by Turkish authorities on suspicion of being a member of Daesh, and was using a forged travel document, the magistrates’ court heard Thursday.
He was convicted in Turkey 18 months later, sentenced to seven-and-a-half years imprisonment, and released in July into an immigration detention center where he remained until he was deported this week.
In 2014, his wife Amal El-Wahabi became the first person in Britain to be convicted of funding Daesh after trying to send 20,000 euros — worth $25,000 at the time — to him in Syria.
She was jailed for 28 months and seven days following a trial in which Davis was described as a drug dealer before going to fight with Daesh in 2013.
“It’s believed that this (money) was to be collected by Mr. Davis or an associate,” CPS prosecutor Kashif Malik told the court Thursday, noting it had been raised in the UK “to support terrorism.”
He said Davis had sent messages and photos to his wife from Syria.
“It is plain from images that Davis sent to El-Wahabi that he has been with fighters in Syria and was not in Syria for lawful purposes,” he added. “On occasions he was in possession of a firearm.”
A 2014 search of the couple’s London property found speeches by Osama bin Laden and prominent Al-Qaeda preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki, Malik said.
“We believe this was material left behind by Mr. Davis,” he added.