Shamima Begum’s bid to return to the UK to challenge her loss of British citizenship “would create significant national security risks”, the Supreme Court has been told.
Now aged 21, Begum was one of three schoolgirls who left London to join Isis (aka Islamic State, or IS) in February 2015.
She travelled to Syria and lived under the terror group’s rule for three years. In February 2019 she was found in a refugee camp in the war-torn country, nine months pregnant.
Sajid Javid, who was then home secretary, stripped her of her British citizenship on national security grounds that same month. She is now trying to return to appeal that decision.
Judges of the Supreme Court will decide if Begum should be allowed to return, and whether her appeal should go ahead if she is told she cannot do so. A two-day hearing started on Monday.
The Home Office has argued bringing her to the UK “would create significant national security risks” and expose people to “an increased risk of terrorism”.
Sir James Eadie QC, for the Home Office, told the court: “The exposure of the public to an increased risk of terrorism is not justifiable or appropriate in this case on fairness grounds.
Watch: Supreme Court to consider if Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to UK
“She married an IS fighter, lived in Raqqa – the capital of the self-declared caliphate – and remained with them for about four years until 2019, when she left from, in effect, the last pocket of IS territory in Baghuz.”
He said the case raised questions about balancing a person’s “procedural rights” with protection of the public from terror.
He said: “Can it be right that a person who has involved themself in terrorism, and is now abroad and subject to restrictions that affect their ability to participate in domestic proceedings, is able to rely on those self-created impediments to insist on return to the jurisdiction to enable them to participate now in such proceedings?
“Can it be right that they should be able to do so if enabling them to do so runs directly contrary to the most effective protection of the public from the risks of harm through terrorism?”
He said she presented a threat that justified her loss of citizenship, and that MI5 says that people who “aligned” with Isis and travelled to Syria “represent a serious and credible threat to UK national security”.
Previously, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission said Begum “cannot play any meaningful part in her appeal and that, to that extent, the appeal will not be fair and effective”, but said that did not mean her appeal would be successful.
However, the Court of Appeal said it was “difficult to conceive of any case where a court or tribunal has said we cannot hold a fair trial, but we are going to go on anyway”.
In July the same court said she should be allowed to come back to the UK to appeal her removal of citizenship.
Later, it ordered a “stay” on Begum’s return until “further order by the Supreme Court”.
Begum said she married a Dutch convert called Yago Riedijk less than two weeks after arriving in Isis territory.
The Times reported that she said she left the Syrian city Raqqa, Isis’s capital, in January 2017 with Riedijk and their children.
The one-year-old girl and three-month old have both since died and her third child died shortly after birth.
The case continues.
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