In Brief

Shamima Begum ‘at risk of hanging’ says lawyer

QC says Begum in ‘incredibly fragile and dangerous’ position in Syria

Shamima Begum is at risk of hanging if she is stripped of her British citizenship and sent to Bangladesh, a court has been told.

The 20-year-old is in “an incredibly fragile and dangerous” position in a Syrian refugee camp, according to her lawyer, Tom Hickman, who is arguing that the revocation of her citizenship by the UK government is unlawful.

Begum, who left London as a 15-year-old, lived under the rule of the Islamic State group for three years. She married a Dutch jihadi fighter and had three children with him, all of whom died.

Her legal team argues that the revocation of citizenship is lawful only if an individual is entitled to citizenship of another country, which they say she is not. The Home Office insists that Begum could claim Bangladeshi nationality through her family, but her lawyers say that Bangladesh will not allow Begum into the country and she would face execution by hanging if she tried to enter covertly.

“The Bangladeshi government has made clear it will not allow the appellant to go to that country. It has said that if she arrived covertly she would be hanged,” they argued in legal papers.

There is also disagreement over the status of Camp Roj in northern Syria, where Begum currently resides. Lawyers say the camp is “likely to be unguarded” and she is free to leave.

But Hickman disputed this and said the environment was “incredibly fragile and dangerous”. He added that the death of her child shows that the conditions in the camp are “wretched and squalid”.

The case came about because in February Sajid Javid, who was then home secretary, ordered that Begum should be deprived of her British citizenship. A spokesperson for Begum’s family responded by saying they were “considering all legal avenues to challenge the decision”, which had left them “very disappointed”.

Others questioned Javid’s move at the time. The human rights group Liberty said “taking away a person’s citizenship” is a “serious” move and “must not be wielded lightly”, while Conservative MP George Freeman said the move was a “mistake” that would set a “dangerous precedent”.

Begum’s case sparked a wider debate about whether Isis jihadi brides be allowed back to the UK. Speaking of Begum and two other girls who left the UK with her, the Metropolitan Police’s then head of counterterrorism, Sir Mark Rowley, said: “We have no evidence that these three girls are responsible for any terrorist offences.”

But Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who chairs the Education Select Committee, said that while he had “compassion” for Begum, the UK could not “welcome” her back.

The current four-day preliminary hearing is taking place at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which deals with cases where the UK government wants to exclude someone from the country on national security grounds.

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