IS bride Shamima Begum 'at real risk of death or torture' after loss of British citizenship

21 October 2019, 23:00 | Updated: 22 October 2019, 23:13

The decision to revoke the British citizenship of IS bride Shamima Begum has exposed her to a "real risk" of torture or death, a court has heard.

Shamima, one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join the terror group, has launched a legal challenge against the government's decision to strip her of her citizenship.

Her lawyer told the Daily Mirror that she will argue she was a victim of rape by her husband.

Tasnime Akunjee, representing Ms Begum, said: "She was married in an Isis ceremony within two weeks of reaching Syria to a 23-year-old fighter. Her context is as a rape victim, or a statutory rape victim."

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) is beginning a four-day preliminary hearing in central London, brought by Ms Begum's family and supporters.

It follows a decision in February, by the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid to revoke her UK citizenship, because it was claimed she posed a continuing risk to the public.

Tom Hickman QC told the court today that the decision to strip Ms Begum of her citizenship was unlawful and exposed her to a "real risk" of torture or death.

Ms Begum, now 19, left the UK in 2015 to become a jihadi bride - along with two other schoolgirls from Bethnal Green in east London.

After the disintegration of the terror group, the former Bethnal Green Academy pupil was found in a northern Syrian refugee camp in February, with other former IS brides and their children.

Mr Hickman said in written submissions that conditions at the al-Hawl camp where she was found and the al-Roj camp where she has since been moved for her own safety are a breach of her human rights.

He described the conditions as "wretched and squalid", and added that the death of Ms Begum's third child in the al-Roj camp demonstrated this.

Mr Hickman said the decision to strip Ms Begum of her citizenship "had the effect - and was designed - to prevent" her from returning to the UK, leaving her "abandoned" in a detention camp.

He also said the court would have to decide "whether the deprivation decision gave rise to a real risk of death or degrading and inhuman treatment".

Ms Begum said she was married just 10 days after arriving in Raqqa to Yago Riedijk, a Dutchman who had converted to Islam and became an IS fighter.

But she caused widespread outrage when she appeared in her interview to be unmoved by the horrors the group had perpetrated during her time with them.

She told a reporter from the Times newspaper: "When I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn't faze me at all. It was from a captured fighter seized on the battlefield, an enemy of Islam. I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance."

Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship just days after that interview - a decision which would only be lawful if it did not leave Ms Begum stateless.

At the time, sources suggested the teenager, whose parents are from Bangladesh, may also have Bangladeshi citizenship.

But Bangladesh's minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam claimed those reports were false and warned that Shamima Begum would not be allowed into his country.

Mr Hickman said in his written submissions that Ms Begum "is not considered a national of Bangladesh and was therefore rendered stateless by the deprivation decision".

Begum, who now claims to hate IS, has begged to be allowed back into Britain for therapy, after all three of her children died in Syria.

The SIAC court, which rules on decisions to remove British citizenship on security grounds, will hear some of the more sensitive intelligence-related evidence in private.

The current home secretary Priti Patel has doubled down on her predecessor's decision to remove the 19-year-old's citizenship.

She told the Sun on Sunday newspaper last month: "Our job is to keep our country safe. We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country - and that includes this woman.

"Everything I see in terms of security and intelligence, I am simply not willing to allow anybody who has been an active supporter or campaigner of IS into this country."

:: Sky News is broadcasting a Brexit-free channel, weekdays 5pm to 10pm on Sky 523