London, Jul 31 (PTI) The UK government on Friday won permission to appeal against a court ruling allowing London-born ISIS bride Shamima Begum to return to Britain to challenge stripping of her British citizenship.
Bangladeshi-origin Begum, now 20, was one of three schoolgirls who fled London to join ISIS in Syria in 2015.
The UK Court of Appeal ruled that the case must go ahead to the Supreme Court before she is allowed back into the country because the case raised a point of law of public importance that only the highest court can resolve.
Sir James Eadie, representing the Home Office, told the court there was a 'big issue at stake' in the case, to decide what should happen when someone cannot have a fair appeal over being stripped of their citizenship as a 'result of going abroad and aligning with terrorist groups'.
He said it was 'an issue of real pressing public importance' which was 'perhaps the central democratic issue of our times'.
Lady Justice King, the head of the panel of three judges at the UK Court of Appeal, which includes Indian-origin Lord Justice Rabinder Singh, allowed the permission to appeal and also said that they are separately referring ‘The Sun’ newspaper to the Attorney General because of a potential contempt of court in publishing a story about the previous High Court judgment in the case earlier this month, allowing Begum re-entry for her legal fight in the UK, before it was announced in court.
The judges also granted Begum's lawyers permission to challenge a decision that the absence of a fair and effective appeal over the citizenship decision did not necessarily mean it should be restored, subject to the Supreme Court accepting that part of the case.
Earlier in July, Begum won the right to return to the UK and carry on her legal fight against the government's revocation of her British citizenship on security grounds.
Begum was one of the three schoolgirls who fled London to join ISIS in Syria in 2015. The Court of Appeal judges ruled that she must be allowed to re-enter and fight her case.
'Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns, so that the leave to enter appeals should be allowed,' they earlier said.
The judges also said that the national security concerns about her 'could be addressed and managed if she returns to the United Kingdom'.
The UK Home Office had earlier said the decision was 'very disappointing' and that it would apply for permission to appeal.
Begum, who was 15 years old when she secretly fled her home in east London in 2015 to join the terrorist group in Syria, is living in a camp run by Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The UK Court of Appeal said she had been denied a fair hearing because she could not make her case from the camp.
A special British immigration tribunal ruled in February that she was a Bangladeshi citizen by descent which meant that she had not been rendered homeless by former UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid's decision to revoke her British citizenship in 2019.
Begum had been tracked down in northern Syria in February last year by ‘The Times’ newspaper, when she was nine months pregnant with her third child, who later died. Javid stripped her of citizenship soon after on the grounds that she could claim Bangladeshi nationality through her parents.
His successor as the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, also backed that decision and ruled out the prospect of her return to the UK.
“We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country – and that includes this woman,” said Patel, in reference to Begum, who had pleaded with the authorities to allow her to return to her family in the UK.
Under UK law, a person can legally have their citizenship revoked but they cannot be made stateless. The UK government maintains that Begum has access to Bangladeshi dual citizenship through her parents, even though the Bangladesh government has since denied any such rights.
Begum left the UK in February 2015 and lived under ISIS rule for more than three years. She became known as a so-called ISIS bride because she was married to Yago Riedijk, a Dutch ISIS fighter, soon after arriving in Syria. PTI AK RS RS