Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Shamima Begum begins legal challenge for citizenship

Shamima Begum awarded state aid after hiring Abu Qatada's law firm

In previous interviews with the British media, ISIS runaway Shamima Begum said that she was “just a housewife” when she spent time in Raqqa, ISIS’s main Syrian stronghold until October 2017. REUTERS  
In previous interviews with the British media, ISIS runaway Shamima Begum said that she was “just a housewife” when she spent time in Raqqa, ISIS’s main Syrian stronghold until October 2017. REUTERS  

The teenage ISIS recruit who left east London to join the terror group in 2015, has sought to reverse the decision to strip her of British citizenship through a request submitted by her family members in the UK.

The teenager was reportedly more heavily involved in ISIS than previously thought including sewing ISIS fighters into suicide vests so they could not be removed before detonation.

Ms Begum has said she was “just a housewife” during her time in Raqqa.

Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign Secretary, said the east London schoolgirl knew what she was signing up to when she left her home, adding the decision to fund the appeal from the taxpayer was a matter of regret.

"On a personal level, it makes me very uncomfortable because she made a series of choices and she knew the choices she was making, so I think we made decisions about her future based on those choices,” he said on Monday.

Accounts from activist group Sound and Picture differ wildly from Ms Begum’s version of events. They say she, along with the two other girls who left Bethnal Green to join ISIS, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, were part of the Khansaa Battalion, a female-only police service.

Ms Begum also used her position to try and influence other young women to join the extremist group, according to messages recovered by the group. Using the pseudonyms “Umm Asma” then “Umm Ahmed,” she spoke to girls across Europe, it is alleged.

“Don’t believe any of the bad things you hear about Dawla, it’s fake. You have everything you want here,” one of the messages read.

“And we can help find you a good-looking husband.”

The legal aid agency, which decides who is eligible for cash towards their legal fight, provides support to people involved in a “serious matter” without the means to pay for a lawyer. Ms Begum qualifies as, living in a refugee camp, she does not have money to pay for legal representation.

Banned from the UK, Ms Begum was previously represented by Tasnime Akunjee, who confirmed the granting of legal aid, but added her case has been taken up by human rights solicitor Gareth Peirce, who represented former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg and Abu Qatada, who was deported to Jordan after a long legal battle. Mr Akungee told The Telegraph the case had been handed over to Ms Peirce because she had the “legal aid contract to do the work”.

Ms Peirce is assisting in the case of Julian Assange in his legal battle against extradition to the US.

Family friend and former police superintendent Dal Babu said Ms Begum was groomed and authorities failed to act.

“The police were aware of this, counter-terrorism police were aware of this, the school she was at were aware of it and the social workers at Tower Hamlets council… despite all of that, they did not share the information with the family,” he told BBC Radio’s Today programme.

Mr Babu said Ms Begum’s case could set a precedent for others held in refugee camps – not only fighters and their wives, but children born to them or taken over to Iraq and Syria by their parents.

Ms Begum left the UK in 2015 at the age of 15 to join the extremist group. She was one of three schoolgirls who left for the now-retaken enclave in Syria and Iraq. The other two are feared dead.

A home office spokesman said it did not comment on individual cases, but decisions to revoke a national’s citizenship “are based on all available evidence and not taken lightly”.

Updated: April 15, 2019 04:26 PM

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