Decision to strip Shamima Begum of UK citizenship was ILLEGAL, her lawyer tells High Court

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to strip ISIS bride Shamima Begum (pictured) of her British citizenship was unlawful, the High Court has heard

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to strip ISIS bride Shamima Begum of her British citizenship was unlawful, the High Court has heard.

The east London schoolgirl, now 20, travelled to Syria to join Islamic State in February 2015, where she lived for more than three years before she was found.

Her lawyers have launched a legal bid against the Home Office saying the decision to strip her of her citizenship was illegal because it rendered her stateless. 

Tasnime Akunjee, Begum’s lawyer, said earlier today that she could be the victim of  ‘statutory rape’ by her ISIS militant husband Yago Riedijk, 23.

He said that Begum was married in an ‘Isis ceremony within two weeks of reaching Syria’ when she was 15-years-old.

He told the Daily Mirror: ‘Her context is as a rape victim or a statutory rape victim.’ 

Her legal team are set to argue that her case cannot be heard without her. 

Ms Begum is bringing proceedings against the Home Office before the High Court and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), a specialist court which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone’s British citizenship on national security grounds.

The Home Office says the decision by the then Home Secretary Javid did not render Ms Begum stateless.

Sajid Javid, pictured today in Downing Street, stripped Begum of her citizenship in February

Sajid Javid, pictured today in Downing Street, stripped Begum of her citizenship in February

It is unclear if her legal team will attempt to take the rape allegations to the British courts if she has her citizenship reinstated, and whether she would even be able to launch proceedings in the UK because the alleged rape occurred in Syria.  

At the start of a four-day preliminary hearing in London on Tuesday, Tom Hickman QC told Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing that the court had to determine ‘whether the deprivation decision rendered the applicant stateless’.

He added that it also had to decide ‘whether she can, in her situation, have a fair and effective appeal and, if not, what the consequences of that are and, thirdly, whether the deprivation decision gave rise to a real risk of death or degrading and inhuman treatment’.

Mr Hickman said SIAC ‘will not be considering the national security case against the appellant or the proportionality of the decision to deprive her of citizenship’.

Yago Riedijk

Tasnime Akunjee

Begum’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee (right) has argued that her husband Yago Riedijk (left) raped the teenager 

At the start of the hearing, Mr Hickman told the court that lawyers for the Home Office had recently sent a letter to Ms Begum’s lawyers in relation to the al-Roj camp in Syria, where Ms Begum is being held.

Mr Hickman said the letter, dated October 18, ‘expressed the view or the assessment that Camp al-Roj is likely to be unguarded and any detainees are free to leave, without reference to any corroborating material’.

He added: ‘As far as we are aware nothing material has changed at al-Roj, albeit that the environment there is incredibly fragile and dangerous.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured leaving Downing Street today) has insisted that Begum will not be allowed back to Britain

Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured leaving Downing Street today) has insisted that Begum will not be allowed back to Britain

In his written submissions, Mr Hickman said Ms Begum ‘is not considered a national of Bangladesh and was therefore rendered stateless by the deprivation decision’.

He added that Ms Begum could face the death penalty in Bangladesh, adding: ‘There have been as many as 2,000 staged killings of individuals suspected of involvement with extremist groups since 2001.’

Ms Begum, then aged 15, 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.

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 in 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 at the al-Hawl camp in northern Syria.

Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing is expected to reserve her judgment. Individuals appealing to SIAC usually remain anonymous, however it is understood that Ms Begum has waived her right to anonymity.

Earlier today counter terror expert Chris Phillips said Begum is  only showing remorse because she wants to come back to the UK.

He told Good Morning Britain: ‘She’s not 15 now, she’s 19. 

Begum (pictured) previously said that her mental health had been hindered by her experience

Begum (pictured) previously said that her mental health had been hindered by her experience 

‘She had full and frank knowledge of what she was doing. She was fully committed in the murders or the group who carried out the murders. 

‘She is only showing remorse as she wants to come back. 

‘She won’t be sentenced as there’s no evidence that she was involved so she won’t face trial. 

‘She’s 15 and lived in the east end of London she knew what she was doing.’ 

Former Met Chief Superintendent Del Dabu said that Britain has an ‘international duty to give her the chance to come back to country and brought through the criminal process.

He said: ‘We have a responsibility as she was groomed on our watch. 

‘We have to take responsibility for young girl’s who were groomed and influenced on our watch.’

In February, Ms Begum was found by The Times, nine months pregnant, at a refugee camp, telling the paper that she would ‘do anything required just to be able to come home’.

Ms Begum said she was married 10 days after arriving in Raqqa to a Dutchman who had converted to Islam, Yago Riedijk, who she claimed was later arrested, charged with spying and tortured.

She eventually left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband but her children, a girl aged a year and nine months old and a three-month-old boy, both died.

Her third child, a son, also died shortly after he was born.

Shamima Begum, then 15, at Gatwick Airport on her way to Syria (centre) with friends Kadiza Sultana, 16, left, and Amira Abase, 15, right, going through security at Gatwick airport before joining Islamic State

Shamima Begum, then 15, at Gatwick Airport on her way to Syria (centre) with friends Kadiza Sultana, 16, left, and Amira Abase, 15, right, going through security at Gatwick airport before joining Islamic State

Riedijk, a 27-year-old jihadist from the Netherlands, has been placed on an exclusion list and is currently being held in a cell in northern Syria.  

He has been banned from entering Britain because he poses a national security risk. 

Riedijk was jailed for six years in his absence last year in his home country the Netherlands for membership of a terrorist organisation.

He has spoken about his love for his wife in an interview with The Times. He said: ‘We got very close very quickly. The perfect wife. She was so young and innocent’. 

Ms Begum told The Times she had ‘mostly’ lived a ‘normal life in Raqqa, every now and then bombing and stuff’.

She added: ‘But 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.’

The Home Office revoked her British citizenship later in February – a decision which is only lawful if it did not leave Ms Begum stateless.

It was speculated at the time that Ms Begum may have Bangladeshi citizenship, but Bangladesh’s minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam has denied this.

Shamima in an undated photo from police

Shamima in an undated photo from police

Home Secretary Priti Patel told The Sun last month that Ms Begum would not be able to return to the UK, telling the paper: ‘Our job is to keep our country safe.

‘We don’t need people who have done harm and left our country to be part of a death cult and to perpetrate that ideology.

‘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 for IS in this country.’

Last month Begum begged to come back to the UK to get therapy after saying she now hates the Islamic State (IS). 

Since being part of IS she says she has given birth to three children, all of whom died from disease or malnutrition. 

Ms Patel responded to her plea by simply saying: ‘No way, no way.’ 

Begum, who is now living in an internment centre in Syria, said: ‘My mental health situation is not the best.     

‘My physical health is OK. I am still young and I do not get sick. That is not my problem. Mentally, though, I am in a really bad way. I need therapy to deal with my grief. It is so hard. I have lost all my children.

‘None of the people I am living with in here know what I have experienced. They are not like my school friends who I could always talk to. They do not understand what I have been through.

‘There is no mental health provision. I have heard that in other camps there is psychiatric help, but not here.’  

MailOnline has contacted the Home Office, the Foreign Office and Begum’s lawyer.

Who is Shamima Begum’s lawyer? Privately-educated lawyer Tasnime Akunjee represents family of Tower Hamlets trio who fled UK for Syria 

Mohammed Tasnime Akunjee

Mohammed Tasnime Akunjee

Privately-educated lawyer Tasnime Akunjee has represented the families of the three girls from Tower Hamlets, east London, who fled the UK to join Islamic State, including Shamima Begum, since 2015.  

Since she was found in a Syrian refugee camp in mid-February, Mr Akunjee has caused controversy by comparing the 19-year-old ISIS bride to a First World War soldier and said she had been treated worse than Nazi war criminals. Mr Akunjee has been spearheading the campaign to get Ms Begum repatriated to the UK.

Previous clients of the criminal defence lawyer include one of Lee Rigby’s killers. He once blamed British authorities for ‘creating’ Fusilier Rigby’s killer, suggested Theresa May has ‘Nazi blood’ for trying to root out extremists and urged Muslims not to cooperate with police. 

Twice married Mr Akunjee, 41, has worked for a series of law firms since 2008, while also working as a legal adviser to the East London Mosque. 

It is believed he may have met the families of the runaway Tower Hamlets girls as part of this role. 

Mr Akunjee said he is handling the Begum case ‘pro bono’, meaning free of charge. It is unclear whether that would continue if the case came before the British courts in future. 

According to his LinkedIn page, Mr Akunjee, the son of a Bangladeshi doctor, studied at the £18,000-a-year City of London School for Boys.  

He went on to study law at the Universities of Sussex and then Westminster.