Shamima Begum’s own lawyer today admitted ‘there is always a possibility’ the jihadi bride is a terror threat to the country she fled for Syria – but believes she should still return to the UK to fight for her passport.
Tasnime Akunjee spoke out after the Supreme Court heard allowing the 21-year-old, who fled to join ISIS aged 15, to appeal the decision to take away her British citizenship would be an ‘affront to justice’.
Mr Akunjee told Good Morning Britain: ‘There is always a possibility [she is a threat] – but if you compare her situation to the brother of the Ariana Grande concert bomber, Mr Abedi, the British Government spent a lot of time and effort securing him in Libya and extraditing him to the UK to face trial for 22 counts of murder. He will spend the next 55 years in prison’.
He was then asked by Susanna Reid if Begum should return to Britain, even if she poses a threat, he said: ‘The Court of Appeal has been clear that should she return to the UK the Home Office will impose added restrictions on her in order to mitigate any possible threat’.
The 21-year-old’s case is being considered by the Supreme Court after her British Citizenship was revoked by the then Home Secretary Savid Javid.
It is deciding whether Begum, currently in the Al Hawl refugee camp in Syria, should be allowed to return to the UK to appeal against the deprivation of that citizenship. Britain believes she is not stateless because people with Bangladeshi parents are given citizenship to the South Asian country upon birth.
British Jihadi wife Shamima Begum pictured with her son Jerah (now deceased) in Al Hawl, Syria. She wants to return to Britain, who tore up her citizenship
What happened to Begum’s two school friends who ran off to Syria with her?
The British schoolgirl who travelled to Syria to join Islamic State with two teenage friends is feared to have been killed in an air strike.
The mother of Amira Abase, who was just 15 when she fled her London home to join IS in 2015, has told friends that she understands her daughter died almost a year ago.
As well as being told by informed sources that her daughter is believed to have been killed, Fetia Hussen lost the mobile phone app communication she had with Amira last summer.
Friends of Fetia Hussen say she believes her daughter, who married Abdullah Elmir, an 18-year-old Australian jihadi, has died, but clings to the faint hope that she is wrong. Both Fetia Hussen and Amira’s father, Abase Hussen, declined to comment.
Some have claimed she may have faked her death to escape Syria.
Kadiza Sultana, 17, is thought to have died in 2016 after her home in the terror state’s stronghold city of Raqqa was hit by a bomb believed to have been dropped by a Russian plane.
The teenager had quickly become disillusioned with Isis and told her family last summer that she wanted to return home.
ITV News revealed that Kadiza, who was one of three Bethnal Green schoolgirls who left their homes to join so-called Islamic State, is dead.
Her sister Halima Khanom said: ‘We were expecting this, in a way. But at least we know she is in a better place.’
Yesterday the hearing was told she posed ‘a clear and serious threat’ to national security.
Government lawyer Sir James Eadie QC said: ‘There is no basis for concluding that the risks that she poses can be managed in a satisfactory way
‘National security is seriously put at risk. Allowing the substantive appeal would represent not an application of justice but an affront to justice.’
She was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy who left their homes and families to join the extremists in December 2014.
She lived under IS rule for more than three years before she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.
At the start of yesterday’s hearing Government lawyer Sir Eadie QC spoke about what could happen if ISIS members returned to the UK, using an MI5 threat assessment report.
He said: ‘The fact is the threat is real and serious, despite the age of the individual when they travelled.
‘The assessment is that those who have travelled to align and have aligned pose a clear and serious threat specifically on return.
‘The exposure of the public to an increased risk of terrorism is not justifiable or appropriate in this case on fairness grounds.’
He then referenced Begum’s interview with a newspaper back in 2019 and how she said she did not regret going to Syria.
Sir Eadie added: ‘Serious concerns about threats on return underpin the deprivation of citizenship.
‘The aim of that measure includes especially making it very difficult for them to return, on the basis of if they do so they pose the sorts of risks you have seen
‘The responsibility of the state is to protect its citizens from the threat of terrorism as best they can.’
‘She married an IS fighter, lived in Raqqa – the capital of the self-declared caliphate – and remained with them for about four years until 2019 when she left from, in effect, the last pocket of IS territory in Baghuz.’
In written submissions, Sir James said: ‘This case raises questions as to the balance to be struck between degrees of protection of procedural rights and degrees of protection of the public from terrorism.
‘Can it be right that a person who has involved themself in terrorism, and is now abroad and subject to restrictions that affect their ability to participate in domestic proceedings, is able to rely on those self-created impediments to insist on return to the jurisdiction to enable them to participate now in such proceedings?
‘Can it be right that they should be able to do so if enabling them to do so runs directly contrary to the most effective protection of the public from the risks of harm through terrorism?’
Begum (seen right) was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy to travel to Syria
Begum was one of three girls from Bethnal Green Academy who joined ISIS back in 2014
Three more jihadis bid to return to the UK
Three other British-Bangladeshis who are said to have travelled to Syria to join ISIS are challenging the removal of their British citizenship.
Two women who were born in the UK, known only as C3 and C4, argue that the decision to revoke their British citizenship on the grounds of national security rendered them stateless and was therefore unlawful.
C3 is in the al-Roj camp in Syria – where Ms Begum is currently detained – with her children, while C4 is being held with her children in the ‘notorious’ al-Hawl camp, where conditions have been described by the International Committee of the Red Cross as ‘apocalyptic’.
Their British citizenship was removed in November 2019, but their lawyers claim they were not told about the decision until six weeks later, when the Foreign Office told their families that they would not provide ‘consular assistance’ as they were no longer British citizens.
C7, who was born in Bangladesh but became a British citizen at birth, is also alleged to have travelled to Syria to join to IS.
He was informed in March that the Home Office was going to remove his British citizenship on the basis that he had ‘aligned’ with IS and was a threat to UK national security.
All three are appealing against the decision to revoke their British citizenship at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) – a specialist tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone’s British citizenship on national security grounds – this week.
At the start of a five-day preliminary hearing on Monday, Dan Squires QC, for C3 and C4, told the tribunal that neither of his clients was a Bangladeshi citizen at the time their British citizenship was revoked, and they were therefore made stateless by the decision.
He added that, even if C3 did have Bangladeshi citizenship at birth, ‘she was not a Bangladeshi citizen on the date of the deprivation decision because she would have lost her citizenship when she turned 21’ under Bangladeshi law.
Mr Squires said C4 was born a Bangladeshi citizen ‘by descent’ through her father, but that she also lost that citizenship when she turned 21.
He said they were currently being held in ‘appalling conditions’ and ‘require UK assistance which is currently being refused on the basis that they are no longer citizens’.
Begum was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy who went to join ISIS, shortly after Sharmeena Begum, who is no relation, travelled to Syria in December 2014.
Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15 respectively, joined Begum on a flight from London to Istanbul before making their way to Syria.
Mr Javid revoked her British citizenship on national security grounds after she was found in the camp.
But in July, the Court of Appeal ruled that ‘the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal’.
Lord Justice Flaux – sitting with Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh – said any decision had to be carefully considered
They added: ‘Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns, so that the leave to enter appeals should be allowed.’
Later that month, the Court of Appeal gave permission for both the Home Office and Ms Begum to take their case to the UK’s highest court.
It also ordered a ‘stay’ on Ms Begum’s return ‘until further order by the Supreme Court’.
At a remote two-day hearing which started this morning, the Supreme Court will consider whether Ms Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to appeal against the deprivation of her British citizenship.
Five Supreme Court justices, led by the court’s president Lord Reed, will also consider whether Ms Begum’s appeal should be allowed if she is refused leave to enter the UK.
Also yesterday, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) will hear the cases of three individuals with British-Bangladeshi heritage whose British citizenship has been revoked on the grounds of national security.
SIAC – a specialist tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone’s British citizenship on national security grounds – will hear appeals by two women, known only as C3 and C4, who also allegedly travelled to Syria from the UK to join IS.
At the same time, the tribunal will hear an appeal brought by a man referred to only as C7, whose British citizenship was revoked earlier this year after he too allegedly travelled to Syria to join to IS.
All three claim the decision to remove their British citizenship rendered them stateless and was therefore unlawful, which is denied by the Home Office.
In Ms Begum’s case, SIAC originally ruled that she ‘cannot play any meaningful part in her appeal and that, to that extent, the appeal will not be fair and effective’, but said ‘it does not follow that her appeal succeeds’.
However, earlier this year, the Court of Appeal said: ‘It is difficult to conceive of any case where a court or tribunal has said we cannot hold a fair trial, but we are going to go on anyway.’
Ms Begum was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy who left their homes and families to join IS, shortly after Sharmeena Begum, who is no relation, travelled to Syria in December 2014.
The girls flew to Istanbul from Gatwick then helped by ISIS traffickers through Turkey to Syria
Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15 respectively, and Ms Begum boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on February 17 2015, before making their way to Raqqa in Syria.
Ms Begum claims she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in IS territory, with all three of her school friends also reportedly marrying foreign IS fighters.
She told The Times last February that she left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband but her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both since died.
Her third child died shortly after he was born.
The case continues.
Timeline: How Shamima Begum’s dream of becoming a jihadi bride saw her stripped of her British citizenship for joining ISIS
Escaping to Syria: Kadiza Sultana,16, Shamima Begum, then 15, and 15-year-old Amira Abase before they joined IS in Syria. Begum’s friends are believed to be dead
Here is a timeline of events following the three girls’ disappearance leading up to Shamima Begum’s legal action.
– February 17 – Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum leave their east London homes at 8am to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, from Gatwick Airport. Begum and Abase are reported missing by their families later the same day.
– February 18 – Sultana is reported missing to the police.
– February 20 – The Metropolitan Police launch a public appeal for information on the missing girls who are feared to have gone on to Syria. The Met expresses concerns that the missing girls may have fled to join ISIS.
– February 21 – Four days after the girls went missing, police believe they may still be in Turkey.
– February 22 – Abase’s father Abase Hussen says his daughter told him she was going to a wedding on the day she disappeared.
– March 10 – It emerges that the girls funded their trip by stealing jewellery.
– August 2016 – Sultana, then 17, is reported to have been killed in Raqqa in May when a suspected Russian air strike obliterates her house.
– February 13 – Begum, then 19, tells Anthony Loyd of The Times that she wants to return to the UK to give birth to her third child.
Speaking from the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, Begum tells the paper: ‘I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago. And I don’t regret coming here.’
– February 15 – Home Secretary Sajid Javid says he ‘will not hesitate’ to prevent the return of Britons who travelled to join IS.
– February 17 – Begum gives birth to her third child – a baby boy, Jarrah – in al-Hawl. Her two other children, a daughter called Sarayah and a son called Jerah, have both previously died.
– February 19 – The Home Office sends Begum’s family a letter stating that it intended to revoke her British citizenship.
– February 20 – Begum, having been shown a copy of the Home Office’s letter by ITV News, describes the decision as ‘unjust’.
– February 22 – Begum’s family write to Mr Javid asking for his help to bring her newborn son to Britain. Shamima’s sister Renu Begum, writing on behalf of the family, said the baby boy was a ‘true innocent’ who should not ‘lose the privilege of being raised in the safety of this country’.
– Late February – Begum is moved to the al-Roj camp in north-eastern Syria, reportedly because of threats to her life made at al-Hawl following the publication of her newspaper interviews.
– March 7 – Jarrah dies around three weeks after he was born.
– March 19 – Begum’s lawyers file a legal action challenging the decision to revoke her citizenship.
– April 1 – In a further interview with The Times, Begum says she was ‘brainwashed’ and that she wanted to ‘go back to the UK for a second chance to start my life over again’.
– May 4 – Bangladesh’s foreign minister Abdul Momen says Begum could face the death penalty for involvement in terrorism if she goes to the country, adding that Bangladesh had ‘nothing to do’ with her.
– September 29 – Home Secretary Priti Patel says there is ‘no way’ she will let Begum return to the UK, adding: ‘We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country – and that includes this woman.’
– October 22-25 – Begum’s appeal against the revocation of her British citizenship begins in London. Her barrister Tom Hickman QC submits the decision has unlawfully rendered her stateless, and exposed her to a ‘real risk’ of torture or death.
– February 7 – SIAC rules on Begum’s legal challenge
– July 16 – Court of Appeal rules on the case and finds in Begum’s favour
– November 23 – Supreme Court hears case