Jihadi Jack: IS recruit Jack Letts loses UK citizenship

Media caption,
Speaking to the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in October 2018, Jack Letts said he had been an "enemy of Britain"

A Muslim convert who joined the Islamic State group as a teenager has had his British citizenship revoked.

Jack Letts - nicknamed Jihadi Jack in the press - was 18 when he left school in Oxfordshire in 2014 to join IS fighters in Raqqa, Syria.

Mr Letts, who is a dual UK-Canadian national, was jailed after being captured by Kurdish YPG forces while trying to flee to Turkey in May 2017.

The Canadian government said the UK had "off-loaded" its responsibilities.

The Home Office said it would not comment on individual cases.

Mr Letts's parents said they were "shocked" by the decision, which they said was made without their son being contacted.

"It's kind of like you're [being] kicked in the gut," John Letts told Channel 4 News.

'Unilateral action'

A statement on behalf of Canada's public safety minister Ralph Goodale's office said: "Terrorism knows no borders, so countries need to work together to keep each other safe.

"Canada is disappointed that the United Kingdom has taken this unilateral action to off-load their responsibilities."

Canada added that it was aware some Canadian citizens were being detained in Syria, but there was "no legal obligation to facilitate their return".

"We will not expose our consular officials to undue risk in this dangerous part of the world."

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood said removing the radicalised fighter's citizenship "shunts the responsibility elsewhere" when many fighters were "radicalised here in the UK".

He added that Britain "should be leading calls" on how "foreign fighters face justice and who is ultimately responsible for bringing them to justice".

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While the Home Office would not comment on the issue, a spokesman said: "Decisions on depriving a dual national of citizenship are based on substantial advice from officials, lawyers and the intelligence agencies and all available information.

"This power is one way we can counter the terrorist threat posed by some of the most dangerous individuals and keep our country safe."

Mr Letts, who converted to Islam when he was 16, dropped out of studying for his A-levels at a school in Oxford in 2014 before moving to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State.

The jihadist terror group became known worldwide for its brutal mass killings and beheadings.

In an interview with the BBC's Quentin Sommerville, Mr Letts said: "I know I was definitely an enemy of Britain."

After being pressed on why he left the UK to join the jihadist group, he said: "I thought I was leaving something behind and going to something better."

Image caption,
Jack Letts was dubbed "Jihadi Jack" after he travelled to Syria in 2014

He told ITV News earlier this year that he wanted to return to the UK as he felt British - but understood it was unlikely he would be able to.

"I'm not going to say I'm innocent. I'm not innocent. I deserve what comes to me. But I just want it to be... appropriate... not just haphazard, freestyle punishment in Syria," he said, at the time. .

Mr Letts's parents, John, 58, and Sally Lane, 57, were convicted in June this year of funding terrorism after sending their son £223.

The couple were sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, following an Old Bailey trial.

Under international law, a person can only be stripped of their citizenship by a government if it does not leave them stateless.

The decision to revoke Jack Letts of his citizenship is thought to be one of the last decisions made by Theresa May's government.

It comes after then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid stripped Shamima Begum of her UK citizenship earlier this year.

She was one of three girls from east London who left the UK in February 2015 and travelled to Syria, where she married an Islamic State group fighter.

Media caption,
Speaking to the BBC in February 2019, Shamima Begum told the BBC she never sought to be an IS "poster girl"

Mr Javid said Ms Begum could claim Bangladeshi citizenship because of her family background.

But Bangladesh has said she is not a citizen and would not be allowed into the country.