Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, has said he is hopeful of a “good outcome” in the coming weeks in the case of Islamic State suspects The Beatles, raising the prospect the US could be preparing to extradite the pair for trial.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee ElSheikh, who have been stripped of their British citizenship, are currently in American custody in Iraq after being brought over the border with Syria.
The US and UK have been at odds over the fate of the Londoners, who are accused of involvement in the capture and killing of more than half a dozen British and American citizens in Syria.
They are believed to make up two of a four-man team of Britons nicknamed The Beatles, who tortured Western Islamic State prisoners.
Britain’s Supreme Court ruled in March ruled that it was unlawful for authorities to cooperate with the US in a high-profile terrorism case without first being assured that the men would not face the death penalty, which the UK objects to.
The UK earlier this month told their American counterparts that they were suspending sending over all evidence in criminal cases because the US still uses capital punishment.
The US has so far not offered any assurances, leaving Kotey, 36, and ElSheikh, 32, in limbo.
Speaking at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Mr Pompeo said, however: “We are making progress, working with important partners who want justice but have a different set of rules,” he said, alluding to the UK.
“It’s working to convince them that proceeding to bring them (The Beatles) to justice is the right approach. I am very hopeful in the coming weeks we will have a good outcome here.
‘When we make a decision to bring someone back from some place else, either through extradition or another legal process, those countries say because we have the death penalty (...) they cannot permit that to happen, or share the information we might need to complete a successful prosecution.
“One of our roles is to convince those countries to permit us to do that.”
Families of some of the victims of The Beatles have appealed to the US Department of Justice to consider dropping the death penalty as they say they would rather see the pair sentenced to life in prison.
"The UK has spoken," said Diane Foley, whose journalist son James was killed on video by one of The Beatles. "They're not going to share it without us taking the death penalty off the table."
New evidence recently surfaced in which Kotey and ElSheikh admitted torturing Americans, including Mr Foley, during an on-camera interview.
“We implore President Trump, Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department to have the detainees brought to the United States to face trial,” three of the families said in a joint letter to the Washington Post last week.
“Like any grieving relatives, we want to know the full truth about what happened to our loved ones, and we want to see our children’s murderers held accountable. These things can happen only if the suspects are put on trial before a jury in an American court of law.”