Jihadi bride Shamima Begum must be allowed to return to the UK to fight the Government's decision to revoke her British citizenship for joining the murderous Islamic State regime, senior judges ruled today.
Begum – one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join ISIS - lost her UK passport after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.
Today the Court of Appeal found that she could not have an 'effective' appeal against the decision by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in February while she is out of the country. The three judges, led by Lord Justice Flaux, demanded she should be allowed back to the UK to continue her legal battle to regain her British citizenship.
The ruling said: 'The Court concludes that Ms Begum’s appeal to the Court of Appeal should be allowed, so that she can have leave to enter the UK in order for there to be a fair and effective appeal before SIAC'.
The Court of Appeal acknowledged that letting her back into the country raises 'national security concerns' but said 'the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal before SIAC is for Ms Begum to be permitted to come into the UK to pursue that appeal'.
The Home Office has not yet said if they will appeal today's decision to the Supreme Court - but it faces the embarrassing prospect of an extremist they claim poses a risk to the country's safety being allowed back to the UK.
If Begum returns to Britain for the citizenship case she will either win and be handed back her British passport, or lose and face deportation with the process expected to run into 2021.
Government sources, who described the ruling as a 'bitter blow' to UK national security, were last night said to be 'pouring over' the details of the secret judgment and its impact on other jihadi brides whose hope of returning to the UK have been raised.
Jihadi bride Shamima Begum, 20, is desperate to return to Britain five years after she voluntarily left to join ISIS in Syria - her British citizenship was revoked when she was found in a refugee camp after the caliphate fell last year
Begum was one of three schoolgirls (pictured) to leave Bethnal Green in east London to join the terror group ISIS in Syria in 2015, when she was aged 15. Pictured with friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, centre and left, who were both believed to have died in drone attacks
Now 20, the Londoner left the UK in February 2015 and lived under ISIS rule for more than three years where she married a Dutch jihadi.
Their three children all died - the final baby perished in the camp where she was found after the caliphate fell - and she claims losing her British citizenship left her at risk of torture and 'real risk of death'.
Then home secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship on national security grounds later that month.
Ms Begum took legal action against the Home Office, claiming the decision was unlawful because it rendered her stateless and exposed her to a real risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.
In February, SIAC - a specialist tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone's British citizenship on national security grounds - ruled the decision was lawful as Ms Begum was 'a citizen of Bangladesh by descent' at the time of the decision.
Appeal: Begum challenged the decision made by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying she now feared for her life. Her third child Jarrah, pictured in her arms, died at three weeks old
The UK government successfully argued that under Bangladeshi law, Ms Begum, whose parents are from the country, is a citizen of Bangladesh by descent so cannot be made stateless by losing her British citizenship.
The tribunal also found that she 'cannot play any meaningful part in her appeal and that, to that extent, the appeal will not be fair and effective', but ruled that 'it does not follow that her appeal succeeds'.
Ms Begum's challenge to the Home Office's decision to refuse to allow her to enter the UK to effectively pursue her appeal was also rejected.
In June, Ms Begum's barrister Tom Hickman QC told the Court of Appeal that removing his client's British citizenship took away 'the real possibility that she could return to the UK'.
He said the decision had the result of 'exposing her to ... the real risk of removal to Bangladesh or Iraq', where Ms Begum faced 'extra-judicial killing at the hands of the police' or 'a wholly unfair and predetermined 'trial' and an immediate sentence of death'.
On Thursday morning, Lord Justice Flaux, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh are due to give a ruling on her appeal, which will be delivered remotely.
At the hearing last month, Mr Hickman argued that Ms Begum's appeal against the deprivation of her citizenship should be allowed because it 'cannot be pursued in a manner that satisfies even minimum requirements of fair procedure'.
He also said Mr Javid had been informed that Ms Begum could not have a fair or effective appeal when he took the decision to revoke her citizenship.
Mr Hickman pointed out that Ms Begum, who remains in the al-Roj camp in Syria, was only 15 when she left the UK, saying: 'She had not even taken her GCSE exams.'
Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Home Office, said: 'The fact that the appellant could not fully engage with the statutory appeal procedure was a result of her decision to leave the UK, travel to Syria against Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice and align with ISIL.
'This led to her being held in conditions akin to detention in a foreign state at the hands of a third party, the Syrian Defence Force.
'It was not the result of any action by the secretary of state and the deprivation decision did not have any causative impact on the appellant in this respect.'
Ms Begum 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 last 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.
Timeline: How Shamima Begum's dream of becoming a jihadi bride saw her stripped of her British citizenship for joining ISIS
Escaping to Syria: Kadiza Sultana,16, Shamima Begum, then 15, and 15-year-old Amira Abase before they joined IS in Syria. Begum's friends are believed to be dead
Here is a timeline of events following the three girls' disappearance leading up to Shamima Begum's legal action.
- February 17 - Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum leave their east London homes at 8am to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, from Gatwick Airport. Begum and Abase are reported missing by their families later the same day.
- February 18 - Sultana is reported missing to the police.
- February 20 - The Metropolitan Police launch a public appeal for information on the missing girls who are feared to have gone on to Syria. The Met expresses concerns that the missing girls may have fled to join ISIS.
- February 21 - Four days after the girls went missing, police believe they may still be in Turkey.
- February 22 - Abase's father Abase Hussen says his daughter told him she was going to a wedding on the day she disappeared.
- March 10 - It emerges that the girls funded their trip by stealing jewellery.
- August 2016 - Sultana, then 17, is reported to have been killed in Raqqa in May when a suspected Russian air strike obliterates her house.
- February 13 - Begum, then 19, tells Anthony Loyd of The Times that she wants to return to the UK to give birth to her third child.
Speaking from the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, Begum tells the paper: 'I'm not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago. And I don't regret coming here.'
- February 15 - Home Secretary Sajid Javid says he 'will not hesitate' to prevent the return of Britons who travelled to join IS.
- February 17 - Begum gives birth to her third child - a baby boy, Jarrah - in al-Hawl. Her two other children, a daughter called Sarayah and a son called Jerah, have both previously died.
- February 19 - The Home Office sends Begum's family a letter stating that it intended to revoke her British citizenship.
- February 20 - Begum, having been shown a copy of the Home Office's letter by ITV News, describes the decision as 'unjust'.
- February 22 - Begum's family write to Mr Javid asking for his help to bring her newborn son to Britain. Shamima's sister Renu Begum, writing on behalf of the family, said the baby boy was a 'true innocent' who should not 'lose the privilege of being raised in the safety of this country'.
- Late February - Begum is moved to the al-Roj camp in north-eastern Syria, reportedly because of threats to her life made at al-Hawl following the publication of her newspaper interviews.
- March 7 - Jarrah dies around three weeks after he was born.
- March 19 - Begum's lawyers file a legal action challenging the decision to revoke her citizenship.
- April 1 - In a further interview with The Times, Begum says she was 'brainwashed' and that she wanted to 'go back to the UK for a second chance to start my life over again'.
- May 4 - Bangladesh's foreign minister Abdul Momen says Begum could face the death penalty for involvement in terrorism if she goes to the country, adding that Bangladesh had 'nothing to do' with her.
- September 29 - Home Secretary Priti Patel says there is 'no way' she will let Begum return to the UK, adding: 'We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country - and that includes this woman.'
- October 22-25 - Begum's appeal against the revocation of her British citizenship begins in London. Her barrister Tom Hickman QC submits the decision has unlawfully rendered her stateless, and exposed her to a 'real risk' of torture or death.
- February 7 - SIAC rules on Begum's legal challenge
- July 16 - Court of Appeal rules on the case