Treason charge idea considered for UK jihadists

Islamic State fighters drive armoured vehicles through Raqqa, Syria (30 June 2014) Image copyright AP
Image caption Islamic State has become one of the most powerful jihadist groups in the world

UK jihadists who travel to Iraq or Syria to fight could be tried for treason, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

He added that such people had "sworn personal allegiance" to Islamic State (IS) and therefore could potentially have committed the offence.

The last UK prosecution for treason was in 1946, when William Joyce was hanged for Nazi propaganda broadcasts.

Committing the offence involves being disloyal to the Crown.

Mr Hammond revealed that UK jihadists could be tried for treason when he was asked a question in the House of Commons by Conservative backbencher Philip Hollobone.

Image caption Mr Hollobone is the MP for Kettering

Mr Hollobone said: "Their [UK jihadists'] actions are treachery against Her Majesty, and aiding and abetting enemies of Her Majesty is one of the greatest offences a British citizen can commit."

Mr Hammond replied that there were "a number of offences under English law with which returning foreign fighters can be charged".

He added: "We have had a discussion about the allegiance question. We have seen people declaring that they have sworn personal allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

'Family pleas for help'

"That does raise questions about their loyalty and allegiance to this country and about whether, as my honourable friend rightly says, the offence of treason could have been committed.

"I will certainly draw his remarks to the attention of the home secretary, who ultimately will be the person who needs to look at this."

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard's head of counter-terrorism Mark Rowley said that "dozens" of UK families have contacted the police in a bid to stop their relatives travelling to fight in Syria.

He also said "many" Britons, known to have travelled to Syria, had now returned to the UK and that police were in the process of attempting to arrest and prosecute them.

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