British Supreme Court to rule on return of 'ISIS bride' Shamima Begum

The Supreme Court is due to give its judgment at 5.45pm Singapore time in the case.
The Supreme Court is due to give its judgment at 5.45pm Singapore time in the case.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's highest court will rule Friday (Feb 26) whether Shamima Begum, a woman stripped of her British citizenship for joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Syria, can return to challenge the decision.

The Supreme Court is due to give its judgment at 0945 GMT (5.45pm Singapore time) in the case, which has come to be seen as a test of how countries treat nationals who joined the extremists.

Now 21, Begum left her home in east London at the age of 15 to travel to Syria with two school friends, and married an ISIS fighter.

In 2019, she told The Times newspaper that she did not regret travelling to Syria and had not been "fazed" by seeing a severed head dumped in a bin.

Britain revoked her citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds amid an outcry led by right-wing newspapers.

Begum is being held in a camp in poor conditions, while her husband is reportedly in jail in Syria, and her three children have died.

She is appealing to be allowed back into Britain so that she can legally challenge her loss of citizenship.

She argues that the decision was unlawful as it has made her stateless and exposed her to the risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.

Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage but the country's foreign minister has said he will not consider granting her citizenship.

The Court of Appeal ruled in July last year that Begum needed to come back to mount a fair and effective appeal.

But the Interior Ministry, in turn, appealed against this decision, insisting she remained "aligned" with the proscribed terrorist organisation.

A government lawyer told the Supreme Court in November her return would create "an increased risk of terrorism".

Her legal team argued that this did not override the need for a fair hearing.

Rights groups have argued human rights principles are at stake and Begum should answer for any crimes in her home country.

The tabloid newspaper The Sun has called her a "vile fanatic" who has "no place on our soil".

Begum claims she married a Dutch convert soon after arriving in ISIS-held territory. She was discovered, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

Her newborn baby died soon after she gave birth. Her two other children also died in infancy under ISIS rule.