LONDON (AFP) — A woman who joined the Islamic State in Syria would pose “a clear and present threat” to national security if she was allowed to return to Britain to appeal a decision to revoke her citizenship, the U.K. government told the Supreme Court on Monday.
The government has asked the country’s highest court to decide if Shamima Begum, 20, can come back to pursue an in-person appeal of the 2019 decision to strip her of British citizenship.
The Court of Appeal ruled in her favor in July, but the government immediately appealed, insisting she remains “aligned” with the Islamic State group.
“The exposure of the public to an increased risk of terrorism is not justifiable or appropriate in this case on fairness grounds,” James Eadie, a lawyer acting for the interior ministry, told a five-judge panel.
“What we submit is that those who travelled (to Syria)… pose a clear and present threat specifically on return.”
Begum was 15 when she and two other schoolgirls from Bethnal Green, east London, left home to join the jihadist group on February 17, 2015.
She claims she married a Dutch convert soon after arriving in IS-held territory. She was discovered, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.
Her newborn baby died soon after she gave birth. Two of her other children also died under IS rule.
Then-home secretary, Sajid Javid, last year annulled Begum’s British citizenship on national security grounds.
She took legal action, arguing the decision was unlawful as it had made her stateless and exposed her to the risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.
British-born Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage. But Bangladesh’s foreign minister has said he will not consider granting her citizenship.
Begum’s high-profile flight with her friends from Britain to Syria via Turkey in 2015 was followed by an international manhunt.
Her discovery in the Al Roj camp after the group’s defeat in Syria and the subsequent months of legal wrangling over her return has regularly prompted outcries in Britain’s right-wing press.
Rights groups have called for her to be allowed to return to the UK, arguing human rights principles are at stake and that Begum should answer for her crimes in her home country.
However, the British government is adamant she cannot return.
Detailing various legal arguments to the five Supreme Court judges in a two-day hearing being held remotely due to the pandemic, Eadie quoted extensively from a security services’ analysis.
He said officials believe those who have spent significant time in IS territory have been “radicalized and desensitized to violence”.
Eadie cited recent interviews Begum gave to U.K. newspapers in which she insisted she did not regret travelling to Syria and had not been fazed seeing decapitated heads dumped in bins.
He said Begum’s inability to be present at an appeal of the citizenship ruling was due to her original decision to leave Britain.
“It was her travel to Syria and alignment with (IS) that provided that basis for deprivation,” Eadie said.
by Joe JACKSON / Callum PATON
© Agence France-Presse