Alleged al Qaeda courier returns to UK weeks after citizenship revoked

© Luke MacGregor
An alleged al Qaeda courier who had his citizenship revoked in 2014 has returned to Britain, causing Westminster considerable embarrassment. Although government officials deem him to be a national security risk, he denies the allegation.

An Afghan man, who has been dubbed M2 by court officials, had his citizenship and passport revoked by UK authorities in May 2014. Since returning to Britain, he has resided in London under strict bail conditions. 

The British government, which now faces a lengthy legal battle to remove him, claims he was preparing to act as an illicit courier for al Qaeda in his home country. However, he denies the claim.

News of his return to Britain surfaced in a report published by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) on Friday.

M2 received official UK citizenship in 2011, having arrived in Britain a few years earlier as a youth. After his British nationality was revoked by the Home Secretary in 2014, he returned to London using his Afghan passport hoping to have the decision overturned.

M2 is the first person to make it through UK border security after having had their citizenship revoked. His case was heard last month at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) – a tribunal that deals with deportation appeals.

During the 4-day hearing, Justice Irwin was told the Afghan man had arrived in Britain as a minor. He was then offered indefinite leave to remain in Britain before he finally secured full citizenship in 2011.

M2, who maintains he is innocent of all charges levelled against him by the British government, sat in the court’s public gallery during the proceedings.

His return to the UK raises serious questions about the government’s counter-extremism policies, which have attracted a firestorm of criticism from human rights campaigners.

The government’s use of deprivation orders has particularly come under scrutiny. Under the policy, the Home Secretary can strip foreign-born UK residents of their citizenship if they are deemed to pose a national security threat. This power remains resolute even in cases where people can be left stateless. Dual nationals who were born in the UK can also have their citizenship revoked.

Vast swathes of evidence supporting the use of deprivation orders is presented in secret Siac hearings, meaning neither the defendant nor the public are privy to it.

As a result, neither M2 nor his barrister were allowed to hear evidence filed against him during the court proceedings. However, in the tribunal’s open sessions his relationship with one of his cousins surfaced as a key concern in the case.

The court was informed that his cousin’s house was raided by Allied and Afghan officers in 2011. While M2’s cousin was not present at the time, several of his brothers were arrested – one of whom was imprisoned in military custody for 48 months.

M2 insists he did not know about this raid until 2013. It was in that year he made what the Home Office say was the first of two suspect trips to his homeland. Due to the clandestine nature of sections of the court hearings, it remains unclear whether UK security services think M2’s cousin is an extremist.

His second visit to Afghanistan was in 2014, after he reportedly discovered his mother was unwell. Home Office lawyers say M2’s gifts of a laptop to a local doctor and an iPhone to his brother during the trip was suspicious. They claim he only gifted these items because his plot to give them to local extremists was foiled by local police.

The Home Secretary handed M2 a deprivation order while he was in Afghanistan during this visit. Siac heard he received a Home Office number to call and less than four weeks later spoke with a counter terror and security chief.

M2 had “indefinite leave to remain” stamped on his Afghan passport, and so flew back to the UK via Pakistan. The Home Office insist his indefinite leave was rendered null and void by the deprivation order he had previously been served and he entered Britain illegally.

When he landed in the UK, M2 was imprisoned in a detention center. He was later freed at a bail hearing in December 2014 and has been based in London ever since.

M2’s presence at his appeal was unusual, with only two such cases known to the public.
In the majority of cases, the Home Secretary banned ex-citizens from returning to Britain while she revoked their nationality.

M2 has been living under highly restrictive bail conditions since December 2014.

He is forced to wear an electronic tag, is banned from speaking to anyone unless the Home Office pre-approves, and must adhere to a strict curfew.
Justice Irwin, who presided over his case, will issue a judgment later in 2015.