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Sajid Javid facing Tory backlash and Canada rift after stripping 'Jihadi Jack' of citizenship

2 min read

Sajid Javid is facing a Conservative backlash and a rift with Canada over his decision to revoke the British citizenship of an Islamic State fighter known as 'Jihadi Jack'.

The former home secretary intervened to strip Jack Letts - who declared himself an "enemy of Britain" after travelling to Syria in 2014 and is now being held in a Kurdish jail - of his citizenship in one of his final acts before becoming Chancellor.

Under international law, governments cannot render a person stateless. 

But Mr Letts's father, John, is Canadian, meaning that the former fighter holds dual Canadian citizenship and is now the responsibility of Ottawa.

The move has already been criticised by two Tory former ministers and triggered a diplomatic row with Canada.

Former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told The Times: "As a member of the United Nations security council, Britain sets a bad example to other countries if we do not take responsibility for such dangerous, evil people as a result of rescinding their citizenship."

And Tobias Ellwood, who served as a defence minister until last month, warned the decision could undermine "the work to defeat extremism in Iraq and Syria which we embarked on in 2014".

Mr Ellwood said in a statement: "Removing the UK citizenship of Isis dual national fighters shunts the responsibility elsewhere when, in many cases, the individuals were radicalised here in the UK.

"The character of conflict has changed but international law has not kept pace. The radicalisation and mobilisation of potential fighters from across the globe is not going away.

"Britain should be leading calls for urgent new international standards on how captured, radicalised, foreign fighters face justice and who is ultimately responsible for bringing them to justice, in order to keep us all safe, wherever we are."

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed that Mr Letts - who in 2015 said he wanted to lead a "martyrdom operation" against British troops - had been stripped of his citizenship, as he hit out at the UK decision.

"Terrorism knows no borders, so countries need to work together to keep each other safe," he said.

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

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

But a spokesperson 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."

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