150 Islamists Could Attempt Legal Returns to UK After Jihadi Bride Court Decision

TOPSHOT - Iraqi refugees and displaced Syrian women, living in al-Hol camp which houses relatives of Islamic State (IS) group members, queue to receive goods in the camp in al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria on March 28, 2019. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP …
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As many as 150 Islamist terrorists could attempt to return to the UK to overturn decisions that stripped them of their British citizenship after the Court of Appeal ruling on jihadi teen bride Shamima Begum.

On Thursday, the court ruled that 20-year-old Ms Begum, who left the UK aged 15 to marry an Islamic State fighter in Syria, can return to the UK to challenge the government decision to remove her British citizenship.

In February 2019, then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid stripped Begum, who remains in a refugee camp in Syria, of her UK nationality.

While it is against international law to make a person stateless, the government claimed that under its interpretation of Bangladeshi nationality law, the UK-born Begum was a Bangladesh national by heritage of her Bangladeshi-born parents.

Bangladesh has rejected that she is a citizen of their country and has refused to take her. On those grounds and that she had never been to Bangladesh, Begum is challenging her ex-communication from the UK.

Dr Alan Mendoza of the hawkish neoconservative think tank, The Henry Jackson Society, said in comments reported in The Telegraph that scores more similar court challenges may erupt.

“The deeply troubling implication of this judgment is that up to 150 terrorists are now legally entitled to enter the UK in order to appeal the decision in their case.

“The already overworked security services will have their work cut out with this potential sudden influx. This decision could have dramatic repercussions for our entire counter-terror strategy,” Dr Mendoza said.

Those increased security concerns were echoed by a Whitehall source, who told the newspaper: “Any returning jihadi is a headache. Anybody who went out there to join Isil is problematic. We would have concerns about anybody who has been in her situation. Even if you didn’t think she was dangerous, you would have to switch resources to put her under surveillance.”

The British security services are already monitoring 43,000 suspected terrorists in the UK, nearly double the 23,000 revealed in 2017. Of those, 3,000 are being closely watched.

On Begum specifically, Richard Walton, a senior fellow at the think tank Policy Exchange who was the chief of Counter-Terrorism Command at Scotland Yard, said the former teen jihadi bride “will present a very real challenge” to counterterrorism. While Mr Walton said that she would likely be charged with terrorism offences, it would be difficult to collect evidence from war zones to prosecute her.

“If released, she would present an on-going threat and would need to be subject to rigorous monitoring costing the state hundreds of thousands of pounds over months and years,” he added.

Terrorists’ lawyers are likely to begin pouring over the ruling to see if it applies to their clients who have had their citizenship removed. One notorious ISIS fighter who might benefit is Jack Letts, also known as Jihadi Jack, who left the UK to join Islamic State in 2014 and had his citizenship revoked in 2019. Letts holds Canadian citizenship through his father.

ISIS brides Reema and Zara Iqbal were stripped of their citizenship in March 2019. As in the case of Begum, the British government asserted Pakistani citizenship on the British-born sisters by virtue of their parents’ nationality.

Jonathan Hall QC, told The Telegraph that the decision could also have ramifications for the estimated 60 to 100 children born in the Middle East to British nationals who had joined Islamic State, as well as their mothers.

Former Home Secretary Javid warned that Begum’s permanent return was inevitable once she stepped foot on British soil, saying: “Regardless of the final outcome to her case, if Ms Begum was to come to this country, it will prove impossible to subsequently remove her.”

If deemed not a British citizen, the British government still has its hands tied by the European Convention on Human Rights which prevents returning individuals to countries where they may face ill-treatment: Bangladesh has the death penalty for terrorists.

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