UK strips citizenship from dual national Daesh convert ‘Jihadi Jack’

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Letts joined Daesh in Syria in 2014 and is now being held in a Kurdish jail. (Facebook)
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In an interview with ITV News this year, Letts said he would like to return to Britain but deserved what was coming to him. (Screengrab/ITV Youtube)
Updated 18 August 2019

UK strips citizenship from dual national Daesh convert ‘Jihadi Jack’

  • Canada accuses UK of off-loading its responsibilities
  • Jack Letts, now 24, fled Britain to join Daesh in Syria when he was 18

LONDON: Britain has revoked the citizenship of a dual national Muslim convert to the Daesh group dubbed “Jihadi Jack” being held in northern Syria, leading Canada to accuse the UK of off-loading its responsibilities.
The move targeting Jack Letts, 24, who was a dual UK-Canadian national, has prompted a diplomatic row with Ottawa, Britain’s Mail on Sunday reported.
Former prime minister Theresa May approved the decision — which had been made by then-interior minister Sajid Javid — in one of her last actions before leaving office in early July, the newspaper said.
A spokesperson for Britain’s interior ministry declined to confirm the report, noting it does not routinely comment on individual cases.

“Decisions on depriving a dual national of citizenship are based on substantial advice from officials, lawyers and the intelligence agencies and all available information,” the spokesperson said.
“This power is one way we can counter the terrorist threat posed by some of the most dangerous individuals and keep our country safe.”
However, the office of Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale did confirm that “the United Kingdom revoked the citizenship of Jack Letts,” and expressed disappointment at the move.
“Canada is disappointed that the United Kingdom has taken this unilateral action to off-load their responsibilities,” the statement said.
“Terrorism knows no borders, so countries need to work together to keep each other safe.”
Letts was captured by Kurdish forces in Syria and is languishing in jail there, despite saying in a media interview earlier this year he would like to return to Britain.
“I’m not innocent,” he told ITV News. “I deserve what comes to me. But I just want it to be... appropriate... not just haphazard, freestyle punishment in Syria.”
Letts converted to Islam at the age of 16 and fled his home in Oxfordshire, central England, two years later to join Daesh.
His Canadian father and British mother were convicted in a UK court in June of funding terrorism by sending him a small amount of money during his time in Syria, but were spared jail.
The Mail on Sunday also reported that there were concerns that the issue could overshadow a meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain’s new leader Boris Johnson at the G7 summit in France next weekend.
The decision is the latest instance of Britain revoking the citizenship of its nationals who went to join the Daesh group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.
In February it faced criticism after stripping Shamima Begum, a teenager who traveled to Syria to marry a Daesh fighter, of her British citizenship.


Streets before suits: US envoy vists Beirut’s ‘real’ rescue hub

Updated 58 min 6 sec ago

Streets before suits: US envoy vists Beirut’s ‘real’ rescue hub

  • Hale’s visit to the volunteer hub in the Gemmayzeh district came days after Macron took a tour of the same street last week
  • Students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives and provide emergency support

BEIRUT: Arriving in Lebanon after last week’s deadly Beirut blast, US envoy David Hale bypassed politicians to head straight to a hard-hit neighborhood where young volunteers are helping people abandoned by their state.
At the volunteer hub dubbed the “Base Camp,” there is a “focus on getting things done,” Hale told a press conference after his tour.
He contrasted the hive of activity to the “dysfunctional governance and empty promises” of Lebanon’s political leaders, who face public outrage over the explosion of a vast stock of ammonium nitrate stored for years at Beirut’s port.
Volunteer efforts “could not only be tapped to rebuild Beirut but (also) to undertake necessary reforms that will bring the kind of transformation that is necessary for Lebanon,” Hale said.
In the wake of the August 4 explosion of a the huge chemical store that laid waste to whole Beirut neighborhoods, students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives, provide emergency support and start to rebuild.
Hale’s visit to the volunteer hub in the blast-hit Gemmayzeh district came days after French President Emmanuel Macron took a tour of the same street last Thursday, as well as meeting Lebanese leaders.
But while Macron was welcomed as a savior, it was clear that the heroes of the moment were the volunteers.
“I don’t know why (Hale) would do that second step and go to meet politicians,” said Wassim Bou Malham, 33, who leads a database management team at the Base Camp.
“The aid is happening here, the data collection is happening here, the cleaning is happening here, the reconstruction is happening here,” he told AFP.
Wearing face masks and neon vests, volunteers sounded like international experts as they explained how they were cleaning up their government’s mess.
In fluent English, they described 3D mapping operations, data collection and relief efforts organized since the cataclysmic blast.
Bou Malham, who spoke with Hale during the tour, is not a data expert but picked up useful experience managing client databases for two of Beirut’s biggest nightclubs.
After the blast tore through the city, wounding 6,500 people and displacing 300,000 from their homes, his skills became vital for the aid effort.
The digitised database developed by Bou Malham and his team of volunteers is now critical for sorting and delivering aid to thousands of blast survivors.
“We haven’t seen any government official or representative actually come in here and ask us if we need anything,” he said.
“It’s so funny that David Hale is the first.”
It is not only in the Base Camp that the state has been thin on the ground.
In the first hours after the explosion, civil defense teams were vastly outnumbered by young volunteers flooding the streets to help.
By the next day, the latter had set up a camp where they offered food, medicine, temporary shelter and repair services to thousands of blast victims, in partnership with several non-governmental groups.
Operations have continued to expand since.
A Base Camp relief hotline received more than 200 calls in the first two hours. Volunteers have assessed the damage to around 1,200 homes and installed at least 600 wooden doors.
“The work is going to speak for itself,” said Bushra, a 37-year-old volunteer.
Simmering anger against Lebanon’s leaders has flared since the blast, which appears to have been caused by years of state corruption and negligence.
With 171 people dead, it is widely seen as the most tragic manifestation yet of the rot at the core of the country’s political system.
Western donors too are fed up with Lebanon’s barons, who have for years resisted reforms demanded by the international community.
In a joint statement released after an international donor conference organized by France in the wake of the disaster, world leaders called for aid to be delivered directly to the Lebanese people.
USAID acting administrator, John Barsa, said at the time that American help “is absolutely not going to the government.”
USAID “will increase its financial support to civil society groups in Lebanon by 30 percent to $6.627 million,” Barsa said in a press briefing on Thursday.
At the volunteer camp in Gemmayzeh, it was clear that funding would be put to good use.
Ziad Al-Zein, arrives before volunteers start their shifts at 9:00 am to ensure the camp is clean and secure.
The 33-year-old was among the first groups of volunteers clearing debris in Gemmayzeh.
“We are not speacialists in crisis management or catastophe management. We are learning things as we go,” he said.
“There is no state,” he added. “We will not abandon our fellow Lebanese in these conditions.”