Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

Nazis treated better than Shamima Begum, says lawyer

The recently captured ISIS fighter gave birth in a refugee camp on Sunday

Renu Begum holds a picture of her sister Shamima Begum. AFP 
Renu Begum holds a picture of her sister Shamima Begum. AFP 

The lawyer for ISIS runaway Briton Shamima Begum said she was being treated worse than a Nazi standing trial at Nuremburg.

Tasnime Akunjee said Ms Begum, 19, was traumatised and compared her current mental state to soldiers “in shellshock” during the First World War.

Ms Begum, who was 15 when she fled to Syria to join ISIS, was discovered in a refugee camp last week and gave birth to a boy on Sunday. She has pleaded to be repatriated to the UK for the sake of her newborn and asked for “sympathy”. Her two-day-old son has been called Jarrar, in memory of one of the two children Ms Begum lost during her time with ISIS.

“The Nazis had the Nuremberg trials. They were given due process. This girl was a victim when she went out there at 15 years old. Our politicians are saying that she should be denied protections and due process that would have been granted to Nazis,” Mr Akunjee told The Times.

British politicians have been non-committal on the future of Ms Begum citing the security risks her and other foreign fighters posed to the UK. Complicating her return further is the lack of British consular services in Syria.

There has been considerable outcry over Ms Begum’s apparent lack of remorse and regret in joining ISIS. She has labelled life under ISIS control as relatively normal and said she was unfazed at finding severed heads in a bin. Ms Begum’s husband, Dutch convert turned fighter Yago Riedijk, is currently being held separately by the UK’s allies on the ground in Syria.

Her lawyer conceded “what she’s saying isn’t helpful” but said she needed support and “will obviously have to be de-radicalised”.

Mr Akunjee described Ms Begum as traumatised in an interview with ITV but was mocked after the host said the 19-year-old woman didn’t look it. Hitting back, the lawyer said: “You might have said the same thing about World War One soldiers in shellshock.”

“The family are aware of how people feel. But it's their daughter and their grandson, who came into existence yesterday. She's a British citizen at the end of the day. There's an innocent child here, the baby. Bringing that child back into safety is a moral duty any state would have,” he added.

British officials have said that, at the very least, if Ms Begum returned she would be interviewed and possibly prosecuted. Some, including British culture secretary Jeremy Wright, have accepted that as a British citizen, Ms Begum has the right to return to the UK at some point.

She was one of four girls from Bethnal Green in East London, who joined ISIS. Mr Akunjee, her lawyer, was among those on Monday to chastise authorities for failing to discharge their duty of care and allowing the children to be radicalised.

He described a “litany of failures” that no agency had yet to investigate and said the local council, police and leadership of Bethnal Green Academy had failed to do their job.

It was revealed by the The Times on Monday that a fifth girl from Bethnal Green, who was stopped from travelling to Syria in 2014, has not been prosecuted despite holding a vast collection of ISIS propaganda. It was also alleged she was involved in a plot to attack a UK government building – a charge the then 15-year-old, and now adult, denies.

She was taken off a December 2014 flight to Turkey moments before it was set to take off. Also onboard was Sharmeena Begum, one of the four other Bethnal Green girls who succeeded in making it to Syria.

Updated: April 2, 2019 03:22 PM

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