Isis bride Shamima Begum ‘highly likely’ to face arrest on her return to UK

17 July 2020, 07:32

By Asher McShane

It is "highly likely" that Isis bride Shamima Begum will be arrested if she comes back to the UK, a former head of the Metropolitan Police's counter terrorism command told LBC.

Richard Walton, who led Scotland Yard's counter terrorism unit between 2011 and 2016, said that Shamima, now 20, who fled the UK as a schoolgirl to join IS in Syria, is likely to face arrest and a subsequent terror trial if she takes up the opportunity to return to the UK.

The court of appeal ruled yesterday that she has the right to come back to the UK to contest in court the removal of her British citizenship.

Mr Walton said he believes the appeal court had made a mistake in its judgement yesterday and that the ruling "undermines" the ability of elected officials to keep the public safe.

Mr Walton said: “I think the court of appeal has made a profound mistake. It will set a dangerous precedent.

“Frankly it is alarming to see the court of appeal taking over the Home Secretary's responsibility of who should be allowed in the UK.

“It has opened the door for her return to Britain and has undermined a statutory power of parliament.

“She is highly likely to be arrested... but it is almost impossible to gather sufficient evidence from war zones.”

The Government said yesterday it was "bitterly disappointed" by the court ruling.

Shamima Begum can return to the UK, it was ruled yesterday
Shamima Begum can return to the UK, it was ruled yesterday. Picture: ITV News

Senior judges said Ms Begum - one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) - should be allowed to return to the UK to fight the decision to remove her British citizenship.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The Government's priority is maintaining our national security, and decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are not taken lightly.

READ MORE: Shamima Begum can return to UK for citizenship fight, court rules

"We will always ensure the safety and security of the UK and will not allow anything to jeopardise this."

Sajid Javid, the then-home secretary who revoked Ms Begum's citizenship on national security grounds, said he was "deeply concerned" by the judgment.

On Twitter, he said he respected the court and would limit how much he said about the case, but that there were important principles at stake.

"Any restrictions of rights and freedoms faced by Ms Begum are a direct consequence of the actions she has taken, in violation of both government guidance and common morality," he said.

"It is not clear to me why an appeal could not be made abroad using modern technology.

"However, this is not solely a matter of justice. It is also a matter of national security."

The Home Office said it will apply for permission to appeal but campaigners welcomed the news.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: "This ruling vindicates our argument that the decision to strip someone of their citizenship is a very serious one and should only be taken when absolutely necessary.

"These are people brought up, often born here, with families and loved ones and the Government should stand up and be counted when they are radicalised.

"They should also be prosecuted in the UK for their crimes, and interrogated so we can learn and prevent more young Brits becoming terrorists."

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Manchester-based Ramadhan Foundation, said the Begum ruling was the "right decision and British citizens should welcome it".

He added: "This is not about any alleged crimes she may have committed but about the principle you cannot have a two-tier citizenship where those of a certain ethnic background born in this country are treated differently to their white counterparts.

"Shamima Begum should be held to account for any crimes she may have committed but what cannot and should not happen is for politicians to make decisions in their own political interests to appear as if they are tough.

"This is a great victory for all those that believe in an equal society and oppose discrimination in applying citizenship rules.

"I hope she returns to the UK and is held to account for her alleged crimes like any other British citizen."

Maya Foa, director of not-for-profit organisation Reprieve, which is calling for all Britons held in camps in north-east Syria to be repatriated to the UK, said: "The Government must urgently revisit its policy and repatriate the tiny number of remaining British families, to face British justice wherever there are charges to answer."

In the Court of Appeal ruling, senior judges said they would be "uneasy" in determining whether Ms Begum, as a 15-year-old schoolgirl, left the UK of her own free will.

Lord Justice Flaux - sitting with Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh - said: "The circumstances in which Ms Begum left the UK and remained in Syria and whether she did so of her own free will should be irrelevant to the question of the legal and procedural consequences of SIAC's (Special Immigration Appeals Commission) conclusion that she cannot have a fair and effective appeal.

"Furthermore, I would be uneasy taking a course which, in effect, involved deciding that Ms Begum had left the UK as a 15-year-old schoolgirl of her own free will in circumstances where one of the principal reasons why she cannot have a fair and effective appeal is her inability to give proper instructions or provide evidence.

"One of the topics that could be explored on her appeal before SIAC is precisely what were the circumstances in which she left the UK in 2015, but that could only properly be determined after a fair and effective appeal. The Secretary of State's submission risks putting the cart before the horse."