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 when she was 15 - was stripped of her UK passport after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.
The mother-of-three, 20, whose children with Dutch jihadi husband Yago Riedijk all died, is still in the Al Hol camp in northern Syria but could be heading back to Britain within days after today's bombshell ruling.
The Court of Appeal found against the Home Office and said 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'.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen was left furious by today’s ruling saying it risked the country’s safety. He told MailOnline: ‘It opens the door for all her fellow jihadi brides to return to Britain – and potentially their terrorist partners too.
‘Most Brits will rightly think that when you swear allegiance to another country that declares war on Britain, that you have given up all the rights and protections and privileges of your British citizenship. After today’s ruling it appears you have not’.
The Home Office says it will appeal the Begum ruling to the Supreme Court in attempt to stop her entering the UK, and said in a statement: 'This is a very disappointing decision by the Court. We will now apply for permission to appeal this judgment, and to stay its effects pending any onward appeal. The Government’s top priority remains maintaining our national security and keeping the public safe'.
But if Priti Patel's department loses it faces the embarrassing prospect of an extremist they claim poses a risk to the country's safety being allowed back to the UK - and opens the door to other jihadi brides flooding back to Britain.
The Court of Appeal has 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 judgment added: 'Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns, so that the LTE (leave to enter the UK) appeals should be allowed'.
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.
Daniel Furner of Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, representing Begum, said in a statement after the decision: 'The Court’s judgment today is an important reminder that fairness and the rule of law remain cornerstones of the British legal system, and that they set the legal limits within which the Home Secretary may act.
‘Justice cannot be defeated, or indefinitely delayed, because a case is difficult or because national security is engaged. Fundamental rights are not extinguished because a person is abroad, or because the allegations against them are serious.
‘As important as the re‐iteration of those centuries’ old principles was the Court’s unqualified rejection of the Home Secretary’s argument that the impediments to Ms Begum’s participation in her appeal were of her own making. As the Court said, approaching the case on that basis risks putting the cart before the horse.
Ms Begum has never had a fair opportunity to give her side of the story. The Court itself noted the “obvious” difference between interviews given to journalists, and instructions provided to a solicitor in court proceedings.
Ms Begum is not afraid of facing British justice, she welcomes it. But the stripping of her citizenship without a chance to clear her name is not justice, it is the opposite.”
Civil liberties groups have hailed today's decision.
Mohammed Shafiq, CEO of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: 'The decision of the Court of Appeal to allow Shamima Begum to return to the UK is the right decision and British citizens should welcome it.
'This is a great victory for all those that believe in a equal society and oppose discrimination in applying citizenship rules. I hope she returns to the UK and is held to account for her alleged crimes like any other British citizen'.
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 significantly.
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.
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'.
But on Thursday, the Court of Appeal ruled that 'the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal'.
Lord Justice Flaux - sitting with Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh - said: '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.'
The judge found that 'the national security concerns about her could be addressed and managed if she returns to the United Kingdom'.
In its ruling, the court said: 'If the Security Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions consider that the evidence and public interest tests for a prosecution for terrorist offences are met, she could be arrested and charged upon her arrival in the United Kingdom and remanded in custody pending trial.'
Lord Justice Flaux also said: 'With due respect to SIAC, it is unthinkable that, having concluded that Ms Begum could not take any meaningful part in her appeal so that it could not be fair and effective, she should have to continue with her appeal nonetheless.'
He added: 'It is difficult to conceive of any case where a court or tribunal has said we cannot hold a fair trial, but we are going to go on anyway.'
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.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.