'Fourth ISIS Beatle' Aine Davis pleads guilty to terrorism charges

Words by ITV News Correspondent Duncan Gardham, video report by ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

A former drug dealer, alleged to be the fourth member of the so-called ISIS "Beatles" kidnap gang, has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges, after a failed bid by the Home Secretary to have him sent to the US.

Aine Davis, 39, from Hammersmith, West London, pleaded guilty to funding terrorism by persuading his wife to try and smuggle 20,000 euros to him in Syria, using a friend who hid the money in her knickers.

He also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm for terrorist purposes after posing with a Kalashnikov assault rifle alongside other fighters in a picture he sent to his wife in Britain.

Davis is the only member of the so-called "Beatles" to face charges in Britain, although he has denied being a member of the group and the allegations did not feature in the charges against him.

It can now be disclosed that Priti Patel, then the Home Secretary, "begged" the US to take on the case in a personal phone call to an American prosecutor.

Priti Patel, then the Home Secretary, 'begged' the US to take on the case in a personal phone call to an American prosecutor. Credit: PA

Davis had been arrested after a raid on a villa near Istanbul in November 2015, on the same day that Mohammed Emwazi, the man nicknamed "Jihadi John" was killed by a drone strike in Syria.

The other two surviving members of the kidnap gang - El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey - were captured in Iraq in January 2018 and extradited to the US to stand trial after British police provided evidence to US prosecutors.

US prosecutors said Davis travelled to Syria with Kotey and he admitted in a Turkish court that he knew Emwazi from a mosque in West London.

A US indictment included Davis as a "co-conspirator," but some of the hostages only mentioned three British members of gang, and prosecutors in Virginia decided not to seek Davis's extradition from Turkey.

Nevertheless, prosecutors in New York remained "determined" to bring him there and wrote to the US Department of Justice (USDoJ) for permission to charge him with "providing material support to ISIS," according to Home Office notes.

The US Department of Justice declined the request, apparently because of a "forum bar" - a reference to a British law, introduced during the attempted extradition of hacker Gary McKinnon, that bans onward extradition where a prosecution could take place in the UK.

The notes recorded "the UK is begging the US to take over prosecution” of Davis and that Priti Patel made a personal phone call to Lisa Monaco, the US Deputy Attorney General, saying the New York prosecutors believed there to be a “good case” and questioning why the US was not pursuing it.

Mark Summers KC, defending Davis, told an earlier hearing about an "Alice in Wonderland" phone call from the Home Secretary to Ms Monaco, "to persuade them to take the case."

"I needn't emphasise just how irregular that is. A personal involvement of the Home Secretary in trying to persuade a foreign country to prosecute a UK national is frankly extraordinary."

Davis was jailed in Turkey and then deported back to Britain last August, at which point he launched a series of appeals against his prosecution, which were all turned down.

Although his alleged membership of the Beatles gang did not feature in the case against him, legal documents in the case of an individual referred to as U2 recorded that the Home Secretary "assesses that Davis poses a risk to national security."

Alexe Kotey, left, and Aine Davis, right, were identified as members of 'Jihadi John's IS cell. Credit: ITV News

"Davis is a British citizen who has been publicly identified as likely to be one of the four Beatles' who held British hostages in 2014-5," it added.

The "Beatles" were responsible for the kidnap and holding of more than 20 Westerners, and the execution of at least seven of them, including Britons David Haines and Alan Henning.

Survivors told of how they nicknamed their gaolers "the Beatles" because of their British accents, dubbing the executioner - Mohammed Emwazi from Queen's Park, West London - as "John."

Elsheikh and Kotey, also from West London, were "Ringo" and "George". Both were extradited to the US where they were jailed for life last year.

Some of the hostages only mentioned three Britons but others talked about "Paul", who has been identified as Aine Davis.

Davis was said to have left Britain on February 17 2012 on the Eurostar, through the Channel Tunnel, with Kotey and two other friends who later died in the fighting in Syria.

Davis returned to Britain before leaving again in July 2013 and joining an aid convoy in Turkey to cross the border.

Davis's wife, Amal el-Wahabi, was jailed for two years and four months in November 2014 for trying to smuggle the 20,000 euros to Davis, after he threatened to take another wife in Syria.

Her friend, Nawal Msaad, a university student, was to be paid 1,000 euros in expenses for the trip. She was cleared by a jury at the Old Bailey after she told them she did not know what the money was for.

Davis was arrested by Turkish counter-terrorism police in a raid on a villa in Silivri, a western suburb of Istanbul, on November 12 2015, the same day that Emwazi was killed in a US drone attack.

At his trial in Turkey, he denied being a member of ISIS and denied being a member of the “Beatles” kidnap gang.

He claimed he had travelled to Syria earlier in the country’s civil war to participate in aid work but had mostly been living in Turkey, and dismissed the images showing him posing with armed militants as “stupid photos” that he had posed for as a joke.

He said he believed he had been linked to Emwazi because the men had attended the same mosque in West London.

However, he was convicted of membership of ISIS and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. Following his release from Ankara’s Sincan prison, he was deported back to Britain in August 2022.

In his sentencing remarks to Davis's wife, Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, said: "I am sure that Aine Davis was indeed engaged in terrorism in Syria after he left this country in July 2013 and made his way there.

"I am sure he was engaged in violent jihad with guns under the black flag of ISIS so as to advance their religious and ideological views."

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