Israeli Islamic State fighter stripped of citizenship in absentia
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Israeli Islamic State fighter stripped of citizenship in absentia

Interior minister revokes Abdallah Hajleh’s citizenship at Shin Bet’s recommendation, seeks court order to keep him from entering country

Illustrative photo of men holding up an Islamic State flag. (AFP/Tauseef Mustafa)
Illustrative photo of men holding up an Islamic State flag. (AFP/Tauseef Mustafa)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Friday moved to strip an Israeli man of his citizenship for traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State jihadist group six years ago.

Deri instructed ministry officials to take action in absentia against Abdallah Hajleh at the recommendation of the Shin Bet security service. The revocation must be approved by a special citizenship court.

Deri’s office also asked the Central District Court to bar Hajleh from ever returning to Israel, according to Hebrew reports. It wasn’t clear where Hajleh is, or if Israeli authorities know his location.

According to reports in Hebrew-language media, Hajleh has a citizenship in a second country.

Shas leader Aryeh Deri attends a campaign event in the northern city of Tiberias, March 18, 2019.(David Cohen/Flash90)

A 2017 amendment to Israel’s nationality act allows those engaged in hostile activity to be stripped of their citizenship in absentia.

The Shin Bet security service has in the past estimated that several dozen Israeli nationals had fought for IS in Iraq and Syria. Most were either killed in action or returned to Israel, where they were arrested.

After the amendment passed two years ago, Deri said he drew up a list of 20 Israeli IS members whose citizenship he intended to revoke. According to reports at the time, Deri’s list was composed mostly of Arab Israelis and East Jerusalem Palestinians, but also included two Jewish converts to Islam.

On Friday, Deri said the “facts are clear” in Hajleh’s case. “This person poses a danger to the Israeli public.”

“This is a person who is disloyal to Israel, who worked to undermine its existence, and spent years trying to damage its security,” he said. “I see no other way besides nullifying his citizenship.”

Screen capture from video of an interview with Shamima Begum, right, a British teen who joined the Islamic State. Her newborn baby is held by a woman, left, during the interview from Syria, February 2019. (YouTube)

The US and European nations have been reluctant to take back citizens with ties to the Islamic State, not wanting the legal challenge of prosecuting them or the potential security risk if they are released.

In the most high-profile US case, the United States last month said that Hoda Muthana, a young woman from Alabama who joined IS, was not a citizen due to her father’s former diplomatic status, and would not be allowed to return home.

In March, the British government drew fire after it emerged that the infant son of a jihadi bride was refused repatriation and had died in a Syrian refugee camp. Nineteen-year-old Shamima Begum was stripped of her British citizenship after giving interviews in which she begged to return home but showed little remorse for having been an IS propagandist. Her baby Jarrah died of pneumonia less than three weeks after he was born.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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