FIVE years ago, a boy named Zane Gbangbola died during the Surrey floods.
Zane was only seven years old when he succumbed to what his parents suspect was cyanide gas caused by the floodwaters to leak from a former landfill site. Kye Gbangbola and Nicole Lawler’s request for legal aid to represent their case at Zane’s inquest was turned down by the Legal Aid Agency who said this did not constitute ‘the public interest’.
Yet civil servants at the Legal Aid Agency have seen fit to grant Shamima Begum legal aid – funded by the British taxpayer – to appeal against Sajid Javid’s decision to strip her of her citizenship. As Melanie Phillips correctly says, Begum has the right to apply for legal aid.
But why was she was given it when more deserving cases are not? Legal aid is means tested. How is it in ‘the public interest’ to risk letting this jihadist back into the UK?
Citizenship is not a right which can be so lightly cast off and then clawed back again. Why is Begum so eager to return? She happily left the country to join with the enemies of civilisation. If Isis had managed to implement their plans of a global caliphate Begum would have shown the rest of us no mercy.
Supporting the decision to grant legal aid to Begum on the basis that this differentiates the UK from less humane countries is irrelevant. Britain doesn’t feel much like a humane country currently and many are losing faith in the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary. British institutions of justice and fairness have been eroded by post-liberal Puritans, secret family courts and the failure of the entire legal establishment and police in preventing rocketing rates of gang violence, stabbing and acid attacks.
No wonder many suspect that should Begum return to the UK she will face little or no retribution in the courts for her crimes. This is compounded by the fact that, as Independent MP John Woodcock said, there might not be enough evidence to try her in court.
It’s probable that Begum will win her appeal given that it’s illegal under international law to make a person stateless and that Bangladesh has rejected all claims of her citizenship there. Melanie is correct in calling for the law of treason to be quickly reinstated – it’s the only way to secure a conviction against Begum and those who agree with her. But given the government’s incompetence, and parliament’s apparent disdain for law-abiding Britons, this might never happen.
Emotions have been heighted over Begum. But the furore over her citizenship is not about human rights, mercy or forgiveness but protecting the British public from a jihadist. Saccharine pleas to hear Begum’s story – as if we haven’t heard it ad nauseam – are typical of the chattering classes’ inability to grasp the mood of the rest of the nation.
Begum has, with the help of media such as Sky News, the Times and ITV, positioned herself as a victim, an innocent child groomed by Isis. But intelligence chief Alex Younger describes Begum as ‘potentially dangerous’.
In February Begum said, ‘I actually do support some British values and I am willing to go back to the UK and settle back again and rehabilitate and that stuff.’ She doesn’t sound enthusiastic about the prospect.
She cites becoming ‘religious’ and liking beheading videos online as reasons why she joined Isis. There are plenty of religious 15-year-olds who are repelled by violent murder and not attracted to it like Begum. She is not the innocent housewife she originally made herself out to be. This is a cruel woman who shows no remorse for the pain and suffering she, and other Isis members, inflicted on their captives. Her only regret is that she chose the losing side.
Begum was unfazed by seeing severed heads in bins and attempted to justify the blowing up of little girls by jihadists in Manchester by claiming this was ‘retaliation’ for US attacks on Isis. She also reportedly sewed suicide bombers into their explosive vests, an act so devoid of humanity it’s difficult for anyone decent to comprehend.
When first interviewed by journalists in the Syrian refugee camp where she was found, a pregnant Begum said that her two previous children had died. Begum then gave birth to her third child whom she named Jarrah, after an Islamic warlord. These are not the actions of someone willing to be de-radicalised. Jarrah died of pneumonia before he was three weeks old.
It’s desperately sad that innocent babies died. Losing a child is an unimaginable tragedy for any parent. But any sympathy for this cannot be used to mask the fact that Begum poses a critical danger to all of us. And I reserve my sympathy for the victims of Isis.
We can only speculate on how much, or little, care Begum gave her three children who died. It would be cruel to accuse her of any negligence without any evidence. Any judgement of her must centre only on her own words and the irrefutable evidence of her participating in Isis’s crimes against humanity.
Begum’s decision to join Isis is not the fault of the Home Office, police, social workers, her school, or even her parents. Culpability lies with Begum alone for voluntarily going to a warzone to join Isis. To try to blame anyone else is to negate her responsibility and could be used as justification in court to absolve her of any wrongdoing.
The entire debacle is indicative of a greater problem. The government’s response to British Isis fighters is woefully inconsistent and chaotic and isn’t showing signs of improvement. Taxpayers’ money would also be better spent tracking down and imprisoning Isis fighters who have returned to the UK rather than financing Begum’s appeal to regain her British citizenship.
Those who leave our shores to fight for enemy entities must be stripped of their citizenship. Should Begum ever return to the UK those faceless civil servants who inexplicably granted her legal aid will have blood on their hands.