Jeremy Corbyn Defends Isis Bride Shamima Begum's Legal Aid Bid

15 April 2019, 14:29 | Updated: 15 April 2019, 16:19

Islamic State bride Shamima Begum, who has revealed she is coming to terms with the prospect she may never return to Britain, but insisted she was "brainwashed" by extremists.
Islamic State bride Shamima Begum, who has revealed she is coming to terms with the prospect she may never return to Britain, but insisted she was "brainwashed" by extremists. Picture: PA

The 19-year-old who fled the UK to join the terror group has been granted legal aid to fight a Home Office decision to revoke her British citizenship.

Earlier this year Begum came to the attention the media while at a refugee camp where she made pleas to be allowed to return to the UK. Ms Begum's British citizenship was revoked soon after.

Speaking at an activity centre near Halifax, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "I understand her solicitor has applied for legal aid.

"She is a British citizen. She's therefore entitled to apply for legal aid if she has a legal problem just like anybody else is."

"She is a British citizen and I do think the idea of removing her citizenship is questionable, very questionable, wrong," Mr Corbyn said.

The Labour leader was speaking at a youth crime reduction project
The Labour leader was speaking at a youth crime reduction project. Picture: PA

But, speaking in Japan, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Legal Aid Agency's decision to assist Ms Begum made him "very uncomfortable".

'However, we are a country that believes that people with limited means should have access to the resources of the state if they want to challenge the decisions the state has made about them and, for obvious reasons, those decisions are made independent from politicians," Mr Hunt told the BBC.

Legal aid is financial assistance provided to help those unable to fund legal representation themselves, whether they are accused of a crime or a victim who seeks the help of a lawyer through the court process.

It is means-tested and availability has been cut back significantly in recent years in England and Wales.

The Labour leader went on to say that should Ms Begum be allowed to return to the UK she would face "a lot of questioning," and the possibility of legal action.

Mr Corbyn also pointed out that "the intelligence on what she did and what happened to her," would be available to the UK should she return.

"She is a British national and, therefore, she has that right, like any of us do, to apply for legal aid if she has a problem."

Mr Corbyn said: "She has legal rights, just like anybody else does."

Tasnime Akunjee, who has represented the Begum family since 2015, travelled to Syria in March to attempt to reach Shamima Begum but was turned away by officials at a refugee camp where she lives, meaning the teenager has been unable to directly instruct a lawyer.

Mr Akunjee lodged an appeal for Begum with the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).

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