A lawyer for Shamima Begum’s family has accused Sajid Javid of cancelling the citizenship of the teenager who joined Islamic State to further his ambitions of becoming prime minister, describing the case as “human fly-tipping”.
Mohammed Akunjee also accused police and Begum’s local authority, Tower Hamlets, of failing to protect the 19-year-old Londoner from being groomed by the Islamist terror group as a schoolgirl in 2015.
Javid, the home secretary and Tory leadership candidate, stripped Begum of her citizenship in February after she was found in a refugee camp in Syria. Married to an Isis fighter, she was in the late stages of pregnancy and said she wanted to return to the UK.
Akunjee said Javid’s decision was a “politically driven abuse of power”, and called for the decision to be overturned and an apology offered.
Under international law, cancelling citizenship is only permissible if it does not leave an individual stateless. Begum is understood to be eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship, but authorities there have denied this and said she could face the death penalty for involvement in terrorism.
In a letter published by the Times, Akunjee laid out the legal case for Javid to reverse the decision, saying it was “the responsibility of a British secretary of state to deal with British problems”.
“Your act represents the most profoundly egregious, capricious and politically driven abuse of power,” he said. “It was a unilateral, unprincipled response to the publishing of [a media interview with Begum in the camp] deployed as an artifice or device to further your own personal political objective of being prime minister.
“Ms Begum was a pawn to your vanity. Her baby died.”
Begum was pregnant with her third child when she was interviewed by the Times at al-Roj camp in northern Syria in February. Akunjee said Begum was worried about the quality of healthcare that would be offered to her baby, after two previous children had died in infancy.
The baby, named Jarrah, was born on 16 February and died of pneumonia on 8 March, the letter said.
Akunjee wrote: “Shamima Begum’s parents never contemplated a life for her in Bangladesh. They did not register her birth with the Bangladeshi high commission. They did not take her to Bangladesh on holiday as a child. Indeed she has never visited the country.
“Rather, Shamima was born, raised, groomed and radicalised here in the UK. The suggestion that Shamima is to you genuinely a Bangladeshi citizen is unsustainable …
“Rather than take responsibility for Shamima Begum and her son, you took a British problem and illegally dumped it on our innocent international neighbours.
“You have dishonourably left it to the Kurdish people to bear the financial and security burden of Shamima’s safety and upkeep. You left them to minister to her sick child and to bury him. Through sleight of hand, you have sought to burden the Bangladeshis with her in the longer term.
“Your cynical decision amounts to human fly-tipping.”