'Jihadi Jack' handover delay questioned by MP

By Emma Vardy
BBC News

image captionJack Letts, from Oxford, travelled to Syria in 2014

An MP has called on the British government to facilitate the handover of a British man accused of joining the Islamic State group.

Jack Letts, dubbed "Jihadi Jack", travelled to Syria in 2014 and was captured in May by the Kurdish-led YPG when he left IS territory.

He has previously said he opposes IS.

Oxford East MP Annaliese Dodds told the BBC Daily Politics programme there were questions to be asked over the government's handling of the case.

Mr Letts, 21, a Muslim convert from Oxford, has been charged with being an IS member by local police force the Asayish.

'True nature' unclear

Ms Dodds, the local MP for Jack Lett's family, said there were "legitimate questions" as to why the British government had not asked officials to hand him over.

Mr Letts has been under investigation by UK police, and may face prosecution if he returns.

The case highlights the dilemma facing the British government over what to do about any suspected British IS fighters left alive in Syria.

Kurdish officials are clear in their belief that Jack Letts was a member of IS.

What is unclear is how much evidence exists about the true nature of his activities in Syria, and what would be admissible in a British court.

It is not known how many other British citizens who migrated to IS territory are still out there.

But any returnees who claim they had a change of heart will find very little public sympathy.

image copyrightBBC
image captionSally Lane and John Letts have claimed the UK government has not done enough

Ms Dodds said: "We would need to find out whether indeed he was a fighter, as has been claimed, or not."

She added: "His parents have been told that he is only going to be able to be dealt with by the British government when he leaves Syria, but obviously he can't leave because he's in jail."

She said there was an argument that Mr Letts should face the judicial process in the UK.

"At the moment the British state isn't willing to facilitate that, it appears.

"I'm not defending anything that Mr Letts may have done or hasn't done. I'm not saying that I can stand in judgement over him.

"Really we need to be resolving these situations."

Kurdish officials have told the BBC they are willing to hand over prisoners of war to their countries of origin, but there had been no official request for Mr Letts.

Mr Letts' parents, John Letts and Sally Lane, claim he went to Syria for humanitarian reasons.

They face charges of funding terrorism for sending him money, which they deny.

The Foreign Office declined to comment on the case, but a spokeswoman told the BBC the government was unable to provide support to British nationals in Syria as it did not have consular representation there.

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