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LONDON: UK nationals who claim to have been detained and tortured after having their citizenship revoked abroad have written a letter opposing a controversial bill being debated in the UK Parliament.

Politicians in the House of Lords, the upper house of the UK legislature, are examining the Nationality and Borders Bill, the ninth clause of which would give the government the right to withdraw a person’s citizenship without warning.

If the bill passes, the government would no longer have to give notice of a decision to withdraw citizenship if it was not “reasonably possible”.

The proposal contradicts international law, which states that everyone has the right to a nationality and that people cannot be left stateless.

Ten Britons whose British citizenship has been stripped in the past decade and who say they have been stranded across the world without the citizenship of another country, used the letter, organized by rights advocacy group Cage, to request a fairer process in cases of revocation of nationality. , The Independent reported on Wednesday.

Deniz Solak was stripped of his British nationality in 2015 before being acquitted of any involvement in terrorist activities two years later in a Turkish court, while Tauqir Sharif was stripped of his nationality in 2017 and accused of links to a group close to Al-Qaeda. , an accusation he denies.

Some of the signatories of the open letter were also accused of belonging to a terrorist group, which was used to justify the withdrawal of their citizenship. But none have been tried in the UK for their alleged crimes.

“If we, or someone else for that matter, have committed a crime, we just ask our day in court where we have the opportunity to challenge the evidence against us,” they said in the letter.

“The current policy of using ‘secret evidence’ and ‘secret courts’ allows the government and the security services to act as judge, jury and, in some cases, executioner against us.

“We don’t have the support or protection of any country in the world; we are essentially stateless. In practice, this means that some of us have suffered detention, imprisonment and torture with impunity, ”they added.

Anger over the potential extension of government powers has grown in Britain, and signatories to the letter said they had been “overwhelmed” by public opposition to the bill.

The debate surrounding the bill follows the high-profile case of Shamima Begum, who traveled to Syria from her London home at the age of 15 in 2015 to join Daesh and marry a fighter from the terrorist group.

She was stripped of her British nationality and considered a national security risk shortly after being found pregnant in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

Begum denies any involvement in any terrorist activity.

Anas Mustapha de Cage told The Independent that deprivation of citizenship was a “flagrant violation” because it not only exiled someone from their household, but also made them “entirely without rights and vulnerable to abuse”.

He added: “It is crucial that the voices of survivors of the current draconian citizenship policies are heard; it clearly highlights the absolute impunity with which the British Home Office operates when exercising this power.

“The Nationality and Borders Bill will further strengthen and expand these powers, allowing the Interior Ministry to deprive people more freely. It undermines equal citizenship for all and places ethnic Britons as second class citizens forever. The abolition of these powers is therefore above all a question of equal citizenship rights.

Fahad Ansari, a lawyer acting on behalf of four of the other signatories of the letter, said: “Although they were never even charged with a terrorist offense, my clients were subjected to the harshest sentence of be stripped of their citizenship and sent into exile.

“The oppressive nature of this power can be gauged by the fact that this type of punishment would not be open to a sentencing judge if my clients had been convicted of the greatest acts of mass murder. “

In response to criticism of the Nationality and Borders Bill, the Interior Ministry refused to apologize for the withdrawal of citizenship from “terrorists, persons involved in serious organized crime and other individuals. who have turned their backs on the UK and want to hurt us ”. said a spokesperson.

“Deprivation of citizenship occurs only after careful consideration of the advice of officials and lawyers, and in accordance with international law. Each case is assessed individually and is always accompanied by a right of appeal, ”they added.

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