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Sajid Javid

Shamima Begum’s lawyer claims Sajid Javid abused power

HOME SECRETARY Sajid Javid is the second leading Tory to be accused of an abuse of power in the last few days. Tasnime Akunjee, the lawer to Shamima Begum, has written to him with the accusation.

Shamima Begum was one of the Bethnal Green Three – three schoolfriends who fled to Syria to marry Isis fighters back in 2015. She turned up in a Syrian refugee camp in February, and the world learned what had happened to her. She had indeed married, her first two children had died and she was about to give birth to a third. The boy was born shortly afterwards and died of a respiratory infection days later.

Standing there, in a refugee camp, Ms Begum refused to apologise for leaving the UK to support Isis – a mistake she made when she was just 15. The refugee camp was probably not a good place to criticise Isis. Javid paid little heed to the circumstances of her leaving the UK or to the circumstances in which she spoke.

With the right wing press in the UK baying for the Tory Government to make an example of Ms Begum, Javid conceded that the United Kingdom could be fatally undermined by a 19 year old woman – and removed Ms Begum’s British citizenship.

Shamima Begum

It was a staggering decision, taken by someone who seemed to think that England still had an empire – or, at least, should behave as if it did. First, came the pompous misogyny of telling Ms Begum she should have been a great deal more politically aware at the age of 15. Second came the imperialist assumption that the UK could remove Ms Begum’s UK citizenship because Bangladesh would take her in – presumably on the grounds of her heritage. It is contrary to international law to remove someone’s citizenship if that act would render them stateless, so Javid needed a technical excuse for his action.

Now Shamima Begum has been granted legal aid to challenge Javid’s action, and her lawyer has made the allegation that Javid’s decision was political – aimed at improving his own popularity in the run up to a Tory leadership contest rather than resulting from a calm consideration of the facts. The lawyer calls the decision “human fly-tipping”.

Mr Akunjee also accuses the authorities in Tower Hamlets – primarily the Council and the police – of failing to safeguard Ms Begum when she was a teenager, allowing her to be groomed by ISIS and/or its agents. Specifically, he points out that a pupil at the school which Shamima Begum and her friends went to had left for Syria in late 2014. This lead to seven girls being interviewed by police – including Ms Begum and the two girls who accompanied her to Syria. Mr Akunjee says that the girls’ parents were not told that the police had spoken to the girls: thus the effect of the interviews was to make the girls realise they were being watched, hastening their decision to leave – with parents not having been alerted to watch what they were doing.

The lawyer also points out that after the three girls left for Syria, Tower Hamlets Council stepped in to ask the Courts to protect the other four girls who had been interviewed by making them wards of Court. Mr Akunjee’s case is that this action was too little, too late.

The Council and Metropolitan Police have denied that there is any substance to the allegations. The Home Office has said that it does not comment on individual allegations.

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