Supreme court hears case of Minh Pham, who faces extradition to US on terror charges and is fighting to retain UK citizenship
A man alleged by MI5 to be involved in “terrorism-related activities” would be rendered stateless if he was removed from Britain, the supreme court has heard.
Minh Pham, who is in his 30s and is being held in prison, has been named for the first time in his three-year legal battle to retain his UK citizenship. He is facing extradition to the US on terrorism charges. The test case is being heard by seven justices in the UK’s highest court.
The appeal comes in the wake of government proposals to limit the right of British citizens to enter the country if they are suspected of returning from involvement in violent Islamic extremism.
Until Tuesday’s hearing Pham’s identity had been withheld. He was named only as B2 in earlier proceedings at the special immigration appeals commission (Siac) and the court of appeal.
Pham was born in Vietnam and came to the UK in 1989. He subsequently acquired British citizenship at the age of 12. When he reached 21 he converted to Islam. He has a British wife and children in the UK.
In 2011, Home Office ministers ordered him to be deprived of British nationality after an MI5 assessment concluded that he was involved in terrorism-related activities. Pham’s lawyers say he would be left stateless if he were deprived of British nationality on security grounds.
Hugh Southey QC said it appeared that Pham in effect lost his Vietnamese nationality when he was granted British citizenship in the 1990s. “It’s highly questionable whether Vietnam would accept him back,” he told the court.
Under a 1954 United Nations convention, countries are not allowed to render individuals stateless. Pham’s case also raises questions about his entitlement to citizenship within the EU. Southey said: “It’s clear that in treaties there’s a well established principle of EU citizenship [in addition to national citizenship].”
In Vietnam, any decision about whether an individual is deemed to be a national is an executive rather than judicial matter, the court was told. Judgment is expected to be reserved until next year. The case continues.