Iraqi with links to Iranian intelligence loses battle to return to UK

Man known only as P3 was stripped of his citizenship because he was considered a national security risk

The British government has won a court battle to stop an Iraqi man from returning to the UK to fight a decision to strip him of his passport over alleged links to the Iranian intelligence services.

The man, named only as P3, had lived in the UK for 20 years before his British passport was revoked while visiting Iraq in 2017. The government said he was prepared to accept orders from Iran and posed a “serious risk to the UK”, court documents said.

The 53 year old, who became a British citizen in 2003, wants to appeal against his loss of citizenship but has been told he cannot come back to fight the case in person.

His lawyers said he cannot properly brief them for the hearing scheduled for next year because of his failing mental health.

At a special immigration court hearing last year, P3 had successfully argued that he should be allowed back in the country to fight his case. He has argued on human rights grounds that he should not continue to be separated from his UK-based family.

But Home Secretary Priti Patel contacted the Court of Appeal, arguing that P3’s family were still able to visit him in Iraq and they were able to have regular WhatsApp conversations. He was also able to brief his lawyers in Turkey and Lebanon about the case, she said.

Ms Patel learnt on Monday that her appeal was successful. The case has now been batted back to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), which will rule for a second time on whether P3 should be allowed to return to the UK.

The case has similarities to the controversy surrounding Shamima Begum, the British schoolgirl who travelled with two teenage friends to join ISIS in 2015.

She was stripped of her citizenship after she was found at a camp protected by armed guards in northern Syria in 2019.

She has also sought to return to the UK to fight that decision but the UK’s top court ruled this year that she could not return after Ms Patel described her as a security risk.

In the latest case, three appeal court judges heard that P3 regularly worked in Iraq for four to six weeks before returning to his wife and three children in the UK for several weeks.

The full details of P3’s alleged links to Iranian intelligence have been withheld on national security grounds. He argued that he had family links to Iran and also through anti-Saddam Hussein groups based there over many years, which could potentially “constitute a link with Iranian intelligence”, he said.

Siac concluded last year that P3 did not represent a national security threat but the appeal court said the body did not have the “institutional competence” to assess the risk. The judges said if the unelected group had made the wrong decision, the government would suffer from any fallout.

Lawyers for P3 declined to comment on the ruling. A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”